TULSA - Residents in Bernice say they have no confidence in their town board and called on some officials to resign.
Two weeks after a state audit accused town officials of questionable, if not illegal practices, trustees held a town meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the issue more in-depth.
The town attorney, Davy Jones, spent more than an hour going over the audit's findings and recommendations in front of the board and citizens.
Among the audit's key findings: Charges the town had over collected more than $106,000 in court fines and fees because it failed to publish its penal ordinances according to state law; questionable compliance with the state's Open Meeting and Open Records acts; and a questionable "if not illegal" policy regarding outstanding water bills.
Jones said the town agrees with some of the audit's findings, but disagrees with others.
For instance, in regard to the water bill policy, which requires new residents to pay any outstanding bill left by previous residents before the service is turned on, Jones said no law prohibits such a policy and said it allowed the town to "keep down the cost of water to all Bernice citizens."
As Jones went over the audits findings and recommendations, town officials offered clarifications to the dozens of residents who had gathered.
Some town board members admitted to making mistakes on some matters and said they would be willing to correct them.
Mayor Bill Ravens agreed that he may have even overstepped his authority as mayor a time or two, as the audit alleges, but said he never did it intentionally.
On other issues, such as the over-collection of court fees, one board member said the town should defend its actions instead of taking steps to reimburse payments.
Board members also said they lost valuable time addressing other issues because they had to focus and cooperate with the audit.
But when it came time for public comment, the board found a mostly hostile crowd gathered before it.
One man stood up and called for board members to resign.
"I don't trust this board and I would love to see three of them resign," he said to applause.
Another gentleman expressed his dissatisfaction with how the board responded to the audit's findings.
"You guys just rambled off thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that you spent of taxpayer's money," he said. "And then you don't want to be under the microscope? You better believe you're going to be under the microscope!"
He later also added, "This meeting I saw smirks and laughs and things. You guys broke rules at least, if not laws."
Steve Miller, a Bernice citizen who petitioned for the audit, said he simply did not trust the board to implement any of the audit's recommendations.
"They got us in this position. I don't see them getting us out of it," said Miller, who continues to call on the Delaware County district attorney to enforce the state's Open Meeting and Open Records laws, which Miller said would go a long way in solving the town's problems.
The board will continue discussing the audit and its recommendations at their next meeting.
They will also address how to pay for the audit, which cost $17,882.62.
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