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Midwest City councilwoman steps down

Megan Bain

By Jeff Harrison
Managing Editor

A Midwest City councilmember resigned last week.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Megan Bain stepped down due to potential conflicts of interest between her duties as an elected official and her employment with Mid-Del Technology Center, which is part of the Mid-Del School District.

Bain was elected to the city council in February 2022 and took office in April 2022.

Midwest City officials say the situation could possibly create a conflict of interest and jeopardize agreements between the city and school district, both current and future. The city’s legal staff researched the issue and later received a legal opinion from a private law firm.

Bain has worked for the Mid-Del Technology Center since 2020. She has served as a business and development coordinator since 2021, marketing the technology center and working with businesses and organizations for training and workforce needs. The MDTC provides workforce training and service to many local companies including some that contract with Midwest City.

She disagreed with the city’s assessment but made the difficult decision to step down.

“I’m not an administrator, I’m not on the board, I don’t make financial decisions,” she said. “We are basically a non-profit school system. I was not going to selfishly stay on the council where it could in the future disrupt any kind of funding, school safety or bond projects.”

The lifelong Midwest City resident said this will deter any school employees from seeking office.

The issues arose in November when Bain disclosed a potential conflict of interest she had with a potential contractor for the city. In her professional capacity, Bain attended a meeting between the company and MDTC related to job training. Bain later notified the city attorney about the meeting.

“My boss brought me in the meeting with a few others and later that week, I let [city attorney] Don Maisch know about it,” Bain said.

The city’s legal staff researched the issues and found Oklahoma Attorney General opinions on similar conflict of interest concerns. Maisch discovered a potential conflict of interest when employees of private sector companies also serve on city councils and the private company contracts with the city. Further research also found that this same conflict of interest potentially applies when both parties are governmental entities.

“At that point, we said we needed to fully vet this thing and find out what’s going on,” Maisch said.

After finding the opinions, officials said they told Bain that outside counsel would be hired to perform additional research and to develop a legal opinion on the matter. Bain said she knew the city was seeking legal advice but did not know it involved creating a legal opinion.

“Naïve me didn’t think that legal counsel was an extensive legal opinion and charges over this,” she said. “I was thinking a phone call or an email.”

Attorneys with Williams, Box, Forshee, & Bullard, P.C., took about a month to research the conflict-of-interest issue and the potential for future conflicts. The city paid the law firm $17,073.50 for legal fees related to the issue in May.

The original legal opinion found that such interactions could potentially create a conflict of interest with Bain’s elected position. The attorneys also said that Bain’s employment could void agreements that the City of Midwest City has with the Mid-Del School District, present and future.

Bain questioned why she could not simply recuse herself from any votes or discussions related to Mid-Del Schools. She had previously done so on matters related to the schools as well as Mid-Del Group Home, due to her husband’s position as executive director of the non-profit.

Maisch said recusal does not solve the problem. He said an attorney general’s opinion states that a conflict of interest would void the contract.

When the legal opinion was issued on June 5, Bain was given the option to either resign her position with the Mid-Del School District or resign her position on the council. If neither of these options were selected, officials said the city’s ability to contract with the Mid-Del Schools would be jeopardized.

For several years, Midwest City has contracted with Mid-Del Schools to provide a school resource officer at Carl Albert High School and Midwest City High School. That contract was up for renewal.

Bain requested a special city council meeting on June 9 to notify the council members on the issue. At the meeting, councilmembers received a supplemental legal opinion on the contract between Midwest City and Mid-Del Schools to provide school resource officers at the high schools. This supplemental legal opinion said Bain could vote on the SRO contract without violating city charter.

Bain did not attend the June 13 city council meeting in which the council voted on the new budget. She said she chose not attend because the original legal opinion suggested that she not vote because of her employment with Mid-Del and to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The council renewed the contract at the June 27 meeting, after Bain resigned.

“I am looking out for what is best for our community,” she said. “I have lived here all of my life and I’m truly invested and I only want what is best.”

City officials said they still plan to seek an attorney general’s opinion on the issue.

“This is a very unfortunate situation, and we want to avoid conflicts of interest like this in the future,” said Matt Dukes, Mayor of Midwest City. “Despite her resignation, we are still considering making a request to the attorney general’s office to issue an opinion on this issue.”

Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb raised doubt about the city’s conclusion.

“It’s hard to imagine that every instance of a school district employee serving on a city council, or conversely, a city employee serving on a school board would always present a conflict of interest,” Cobb said. “We consulted with our attorney, who agreed with that position. Otherwise, there are probably dozens of situations like this around the state. Hopefully the attorney general’s office will be able to provide clarity on this issue in the near future.”

Tim Blanton, a former Midwest City police officer, served on the Mid-Del School Board for more than a decade before retiring in 2018. During that time, the school district and city created the school resource officer program.

Residents of Ward 3 will have a chance to vote for a new councilmember on Feb. 13, 2024. The newly elected councilmember will serve the remainder of Bain’s unexpired term.

In the meantime, Mayor Matt Dukes said he expects to appoint Rick Dawkins as the interim Ward 3 councilmember. Dawkins served as the Ward 3 councilmember for two terms but did not seek reelection in 2018. He currently serves on the planning commission.

Dawkins said he will not run for election next year.

City Manager Tim Lyon said the city will need to evaluate its election process and requirements and eligibility for candidates for municipal office. He noted that the legal opinion only applies to Midwest City but said it’s matter of statewide concern.



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