Petition drive looks to do better

Falling just short the first time seems to have only strengthened the resolve of a group working a second time to pass a petition calling for an audit of the city of Pauls Valley's books.

A second petition drive is already underway and scheduled to go another couple of weeks as the main focus is the former hospital in PV both before and after it closed almost exactly two years ago.

The leading voice of the effort is again Skip Mitchell, who says lessons were learned on how to tighten up the drive after the first one this past summer fell only a few signatures short of passage.

“When I look back I wouldn't say we did anything wrong, but we could have done better,” Mitchell said about the petition drive in June and July.

“This is why we feel compelled to do it again. As close as we were last time we felt compelled to do it again.”

Mitchell also believes the COVID-19 virus pandemic played a part in falling short the first time, while he thinks there are some “citizens that will struggle with what we say.”

The deadline for the drive, which needs at least 304 signatures of voters with a residence registered inside of Pauls Valley’s city limits to pass, is Oct. 27 as supporters are expected to volunteer to do more work in town to get the petition out there.

Like the first drive the petition will be available at the Pauls Valley Urgent Care facility on West Grant on the days when the facility is open.

“We will work the neighborhoods more and try and learn from where he fell short in the last drive,” he said, adding there is a Spanish version of the petition.

The petition again is calling for state auditors to come in and look closer at a number of city related issues from 2015 through 2020.

Mitchell has made it clear his main focus all along has been the back pay and benefits for all 131 employees who worked at the hospital when it closed in October 2018.

Just like the first petition this new one also estimates an investigative audit to cost between $40,000 and $80,000, which would be paid by the city of Pauls Valley.

“The other side says this audit will cost them $80,000. The only way it's going to cost them $80,000 is if the auditor finds numerous concerns,” he said.

Mitchell also offers a little more on his online claims the current efforts by the Southern Plains Medical Group to get the local hospital back open won't be successful until an audit is completed.

“It's my contention that hospital can't open again without this being done first,” he said about the audit.

“I say that because they can't staff it. Not enough people will go back until we get some answers. If they open up without employees being paid they won't be able to staff this hospital.”

A total of eight items are listed on this second petition.

1. Determine if financing arrangements, including a $500,000 loan made to Southern Plains, have been properly managed.

2. Determine if sales tax revenue has been used according to its designated purposes.

3. Evaluate the recall petition process and related communications and results.

4. Review contracts, lease agreements and bid processes of the hospital facility and the ambulance service.

5. Determine if the city has failed to pay wages and related benefits to former hospital employees.

6. Review the city’s management/relationship with nursing home facilities across the state of Oklahoma.

7. Review possible violations of the Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act.

8. Review payments to selected personnel.

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