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January 21, 2014

Commissioners ask the city where the money went

McALESTER — A letter sent to the city of McAlester last year seeking information about the spending of E911/ 911 tax dollars was discussed Tuesday by Pittsburg County commissioners.

The action happened Tuesday during a regular weekly meeting. The session this week was rescheduled from Monday — the regular day of the week for the meeting — due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

During the meeting, commissioners discussed a letter sent in April asking McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak to provide information regarding the E911 Communication Center and the tax dollars used to run it. The letter went unanswered for almost a year, commissioners said.

“They aren’t answering our questions,” said District 3 Commissioner Trent Myers. “They want our money, but  they don’t want to answer our questions.”

Tuesday afternoon, Stasiak said he had delivered the requested documentation over the past year, and delivered it again Tuesday morning, soon after the commission meeting.

“I believe we did respond to the letter in bits and pieces over the year,” Stasiak said. “But I delivered the entire package, about six inches of information, this morning.”

Stasiak said the issue of the answered letter came up after a recent 911 board meeting.

“Once I was made aware that they were still requesting this information, I called a meeting with my people and we got the information together as soon we could,” he said.

The second letter is dated Tuesday and is addressed to McAlester City Mayor Steve Harrison along with Stasiak and six city councilors.

In it, commissioners state they are again requesting “with the best interest of the citizens in Pittsburg County in mind” that detailed financial statements be “provided to our office by the 15th of each month for the preceding month.

“Attempts have been made to receive these in the past but (the statements) have never been received on a consistent basis and none have been received in the last six months.”

Stasiak said in his reply Tuesday morning that “a copy of all reports regarding the 911 have been given to the Board on a monthly basis as supplied by Ms. Lisa Sutterfield.”

Sutterfield is the 911 coordinator hired by the city for Pittsburg County. She has resigned the post effective Feb. 1 to take another job.

Commissioners also asked the city to respond to a February request that the 911 Dispatch Center become a “stand-alone” department. The letter states that “in March 2012, a subcommittee was formed to address this and other concerns, but as of today none of these concerns have been addressed.”

Stasiak said the city is “moving towards a ‘Stand Alone’ operation of the 911 Dispatch Center.

“To date, advertising has been completed in regards to hiring a Dispatch Center Manager. The top three candidates have been selected and I anticipate interviewing the candidates the week of January 27.”

According to the county letter, commissioners also requested for the second time copies of all audits for the 911 and E/911 funds from the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, to the present.

“As you know, even though this money is sent to the City of McAlester, it is still considered county tax dollars and needs to be monitored by the Board of Commissioners,” the letter states.

Stasiak said the requested audits were part of the package delivered Tuesday morning.

Also in the letter, commissioners discuss concerns with an inter-local cooperation agreement including documentation regarding administration fees the city is collecting from the 911 account.

“Nowhere (in the agreement) does it state that the City of McAlester may collect an administrative fees from the 911 account, nor does it state the amount that may be collected. Please explain if the City of McAlester is still collecting this fee,” the letter states.

In response, Stasiak said, “The City of McAlester does not collect an administrative fee from the 911 account.

“It is my understanding in speaking with (city Chief Financial Officer Toni) Ervin ... that this had occurred in the past. According to Ms. Ervin, this practice was halted and all fees were returned to the 911 account. The City of McAlester will strive to meet the monthly requests of the board going forward so that everyone has a level of confidence that the 911 Dispatch Center is managed professionally.”

Also attending Tuesday’s meeting were District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith and District 1 Commissioner Gene Rogers.

The Pittsburg County commissioners meet Mondays at 9 a.m. in the commissioner’s conference room at the Pittsburg County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public.

 

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From left, Ward 6 McAlester City Councilor Jason Barnett, Ward 5 Councilor Buddy Garvin and Ward 4 Councilor Robert Karr are shown during the city council’s Tuesday night, April 22, 2014, meeting at City Hall. City councilors passed a measure to pay a Texas company to take over operations and management of the city’s water treatment plant, with Barnett and Garvin casting the sole “no” votes.

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