Petition arrives at auditor's office

Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd (right) was accompanied by Trey Davis from her office when she came to Pauls Valley in August to address concerns after a citizens petition fell short of enough signatures to pass. A more recent petition did pass as an investigative audit of the city of Pauls Valley will likely come in 2021. (PV Democrat photo)

A citizens petition calling for an audit in Pauls Valley – with a focus on the local hospital before it closed in 2018 – has now reached its destination at the state auditor's office in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd told the PV Democrat it arrived on Monday as plans now are to get an audit scheduled for sometime in 2021.

Byrd estimates a comprehensive audit of this type will likely stretch out over several months and could get started as early as next summer.

“Now that the petition has been certified with enough signatures we'll put it on our log of special investigative audits to be completed,” Byrd said.

“We have a six-month backlog, so I estimate that we'll get to this in June 2021. It looks like there will be one auditor, but if we get in there and find out more is needed we could add more resources. I would say there would not be more than two auditors on this.

“I expect the time, once we start, to be about six months based on the information we have now,” she said about the estimated timeline for an audit from start to finish.

This is the second attempt to get a petition passed as the first one this past June and July fell just a few signatures short.

With the effort in September and October proponents were able to collect a total of 374 names on the petition.

During a special meeting on Nov. 20 members of the Garvin County Election Board announced 317 of the signatures were considered valid as at least 304 were needed for the petition to pass.

It now triggers an investigative audit meant to answer many questions about how Pauls Valley's hospital was operated in its final years and what led to its closure in October 2018.

A total of eight items are listed on this second petition, which has a specific timeline listed between 2015 and 2020.

Some of the areas listed on the petition include financing arrangements, use of sales tax revenue, contracts, lease agreements and bid processes of the hospital, along with the wages and related benefits going to former hospital employees.

“The next few months the auditor will be contacting people in preparation for the audit,” Byrd said, adding the audit will involve interviews with personnel and the gathering of various documents.

“When it's completed an audit report will be compiled, and the auditor will meet with management and other concerned citizens to make sure we have all the information; that we have verified everything. We want to make sure one last time to ensure we have gathered everything.”

After that the auditor's findings will then be released to the public on the office's website.

“Once we release it it's public information,” she said.

“However, if we feel there's something there it's our responsibility to also contact the appropriate agencies.”

The estimated cost of the audit to be paid by the city of Pauls Valley is between $40,000 and $80,000.

Pauls Valley City Manager James Frizell has previously said if an audit does happen he and other city employees will do what they're instructed by auditors.

“If it goes through we'll be notified by the state auditor's office and told to set that money aside,” Frizell said during a public meeting several weeks ago.

“We'll need to account for that $80,000. If it does come we've got to prepare. It could affect our water rates. The money would need to come from somewhere.”

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