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Claremore requesting audit after petitions spread

Posted at 1:53 PM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 23:29:17-04

CLAREMORE, Okla. -- A news conference was held in Claremore on Monday afternoon in connection with efforts from residents who were seeking an audit on several issues.

The petition claims the city was behind in bills to GRDA. But the city says that's a lie and provided a signed letter from the CEO saying there haven't been any missed payments since 2012.

A second allegation claimed city residents receive a sales tax revenue of 9.3%. But the city claims of that, only 3% goes back to the city. 4.5% goes to the state and almost 2% goes to Rogers County. But now the city wants to prove to residents they're upfront about expenses so they've agreed to an audit.

RELATED: Claremore residents asking for city audit for third time

A group of citizens have called for the state to investigate the city of Claremore after they say their electric bills have dramatically risen over the past few years.

The city of Claremore issued the following press release Monday:

Over the past few months, several petition efforts have been made. The petition, being led by a resident of Claremore, is of concern to local officials because it is misleading to the public and could result in distrust and misunderstanding. This press release provides two examples of misinformation from the petitioner, sales tax revenue and delinquency of payments to GRDA, as well as providing a path forward to ensure public confidence and maintain Claremore’s high level of transparency. 

Sales tax revenue. The petition claims the City of Claremore receives “9.3 percent sales tax revenue.” This statement is not factual. All residents can discover how much sales tax the city collects and how much is allocated to other entities with a simple google search. For example, from a 9.33 percent sales tax, Claremore receives 3 percent, 4.5 percent goes to the State, and 1.833 percent goes to Rogers County. Of the 558 Oklahoma cities that collect sales tax more than 300 have a higher rate than Claremore. Without clarifying the petition language, citizens who sign it could be misled to believe Claremore collects the whole 9.3% in sales tax, which is incorrect. 

Delinquency of payments to GRDA. GRDA provides electricity to the City of Claremore under a wholesale power purchase agreement. Claremore has been a customer of GRDA since 1946 and has developed a strong relationship of trust and partnership. The Petitioner made an Open Records request under the Oklahoma Open Records Act in June 2018. At that time the petitioner was provided with documents that showed that the City of Claremore had not been delinquent in any of its payments within the period requested; yet, the question remains on the third petition effort despite having been shown that no payment delinquency exists. Without removing this portion of the petition, citizens who sign the petition could be led to believe the City of Claremore is not making our payment obligations, which is not true. 

A path forward. The two examples mentioned above, along with other potential misunderstandings that could arise from the language used in the petition, has led Claremore City officials to have an agenda item on tonight’s meeting to vote to formally request the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, Gary A. Jones, to review the records set out in the mentioned petition. Such a formal request is an act of confidence and an effort in transparency. 

Each year Claremore undergoes a financial audit from a licensed third-party group. That audit is submitted to the State Auditor’s Office for their review. For the past few years, these audits have clearly shown Claremore is both financially healthy and financially well managed. 

While Claremore is consistently seeking to improve, we are confident the financial obligations and responsibilities of Claremore are managed with a high level of professionalism and can withstand strict scrutiny. City Officials are 
dedicated to the principles of transparency, honesty, and integrity. We welcome and encourage public participation in the democratic process allowing citizen engagement, and while the petition has twice failed to garner sufficient signatures, we feel such a formal request would allow the City’s desire to be transparent as well as a desire to maintain the high-level public trust. 

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