Broken Arrow residents question mayor's knowledge of casino

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - Testimony regarding just how much the mayor of Broken Arrow knew about the Red Clay Casino project, and when he found out about it, has residents speaking out.

The casino developer testified that Mayor Mike Lester knew about the casino plans since February of last year. And now citizens want answers.

Signs of progress on the Red Clay Casino site have screeched to a halt .

"The court issued in no uncertain terms that construction must stop," said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

But testimony during the trial has taken some Broken Arrow residents by surprise.

"I was surprised that, according to their attorney, that the mayor knew back in February, so I was surprised to hear that, since he's been saying all along that he didn't know about it," said resident Kim Schein.

Casino developer Luis Figueredo testified that Mayor Mike Lester told him it wasn't a good idea to release the information to the public, especially with an upcoming election.

"Well if what the attorney said is true, I think the people of Broken Arrow need to take a look at whether or not he's doing the best for the city of Broken Arrow, and the citizens that live in it," Schein said.

The mayor released this statement:

"In response to Luis Figueredo's reported testimony in Federal Court May 17, Mike Lester stated he was invited to lunch by Marcella Giles, a long-time family friend in 2010 or early 2011.

The lunch included Ms. Giles and an associate. During the lunch, an informal discussion took place of the potential for a casino at this location. Lester expressed concerns at this time about infrastructure in this area. Lester emphasized there has been rumors of a casino in Broken Arrow for some time and viewed this as a casual lunch between friends rather than a formal meeting. At the time, this was known as Creek land and the city had no jurisdiction over this property. The other council members were unaware of this discussion.

The City previously responded to numerous open records requests regarding communication between the city manager, city councilors, the land owners and developers. Various documents were produced, including the mayor's calendar. Staff found there were no calendar items or emails regarding this meeting between the landowners or developers and any councilors or city staff.

Now, some citizens are calling on the mayor to resign.

"I'm mostly disappointed that we asked him, directly, 'Have you ever met with these developers before December?' which was his story at the time, and he said, 'No, I haven't,'" said Jared Cawley with Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming.

"Well if he knew about it, and just swept it under the rug, I would agree with the residents, most definitely," said resident Ron Pyle.

Other city officials, including former city manager Dave Wooden, have also come under fire. Several citizens called for him to resign in April. The City won't say why Wooden's contract was eventually terminated.

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