A petition filled with signatures is literally on its way to the same state officials who would conduct an audit into the closure of Pauls Valley's hospital nearly two years ago.
Behind the wheel making the drive to the state auditor's office Friday morning is Skip Mitchell of the Forum Consulting Group in Lindsay.
Mitchell has been the very visible proponent for some time pushing for an investigative audit on how the hospital was operated in its final years and the specifics of the facility’s closure in 2018.
After the past month collecting signatures Mitchell, who got lots of help from a number of volunteers, was set to deliver the finished petition just a few hours before Friday's deadline.
“I'm en route to turn it into the state auditor's office. We have way more than we need,” he said about the number of signatures collected on the petition.
“It all points back to the hospital. This is the first step in finding out what happened to it financially.”
Although Mitchell didn't disclose the actual number the target was to collect at least 296 signatures of registered voters living inside of Pauls Valley's city limits.
Before an audit can happen the signatures collected must first be verified by the election board.
“They will make copies and send them to the election board. They've told me they'll put it on their schedule, and they want to have the audit complete by the end of the year,” Mitchell said about officials in the state auditor's office.
The actual petition lists out eight specific areas that auditors are asked to closely check out if a comprehensive audit happens.
• Determine if financing arrangements (revenue notes, loans, etc.) have been properly managed.
• Determine if sales tax revenue has been used according to its designated purposes.
• Evaluate the recall petition process and related communications and results.
• Review contracts, lease agreements and bid processes of the hospital facility and the ambulance service.
• Determine if the city has failed to pay wages and related benefits to former hospital employees.
• Review the city’s management/relationship with nursing home facilities across the state of Oklahoma.
• Review the possible violations of the Open Meeting Act and the Open Records Act.
• Review payments to selected personnel (contract labor, legal services, etc.).
Mitchell describes the petition drive, which started back on June 27, as an intense up and down ride but one he believes was a “success.”
“It didn't turn out the way we thought it would. It got off to a great kickoff and then it dropped off. By the third week I wouldn't say we were down, but it's safe to say the odds were against us,” he said.
“This last week there was a surge of people coming to sign the petition. The last 30 days has been very intense.
“This is a victory for not just the citizens but the former hospital employees and their families.”
He's also quick to give lots of credit to all the volunteers that helped with the entire process leading up to the petition and then the drive itself the past few weeks.
“This would not have been possible without all the dozens of people who stepped up to help.
“Wow. It's a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.”