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Midwest City seeks AG opinion

City requests clarification on conflict-of-interest concerns

By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon

The City of Midwest City is asking the state’s attorney general for help in clarifying recent conflict-of-interest concerns that have arisen regarding who can legally serve as a councilmember for the city.

The city has requested an official opinion from the attorney general in a letter submitted last week.

The request includes questions about conflict-of-interest language both in the Oklahoma Constitution and in the Midwest City Charter.

City officials said the purpose of requesting an opinion from the attorney general is an attempt to clear up differing legal opinions that exist on conflict-of-interest issues. In the request, the attorney general is specifically asked to define terms such as “directly or indirectly” in the Oklahoma Constitution. These terms are referring to the receipt of benefits by an elected official.

The request also seeks clarification on whether or not an elected official’s employment can affect the legality of existing or future contracts between the city and that official’s employer.

An AG’s opinion on the issues could have a widespread impact on the eligibility of people to hold elected office.

“If the AG comes down and says Midwest City, you’re all wrong then we’ll go back and undo it,” said Mayor Matt Dukes during a Nov. 14 city council meeting.

The city’s request stems from concerns about potential conflicts of interest involving a former councilmember.

Former Ward 3 councilwoman Megan Bain resigned in June due to concerns about potential conflict of interest between her role as a councilmember and her employment with the Mid-Del Technology Center, which is part of the Mid-Del School District.

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. She said the action will deter any school employees from seeking office.

City leaders believe the situation could possibly create a conflict of interest and jeopardize agreements between the city and school district, both current and future. They pointed to a contract with Mid-Del Schools for school resource officers, which they said could’ve been jeopardized.

The city’s legal staff researched the issue and later received a legal opinion from a private law firm. The outside counsel later provided a supplemental opinion that offered conflicting opinions.

In June, the city council urged the city staff to consult other municipal organizations and the school district about the issue as well as seek an opinion from the attorney general. The city’s outside counsel drafted the questions and letter to the attorney general.

Councilmember Sara Bana expressed concerns about the speed of the process during a Nov. 14 city council meeting.

“I’ve heard that the question is in the works. It was my understanding that the question was in the works somewhere around June,” Bana said. “Do we have a deadline or a timeframe when the question will be finalized and maybe a deadline of when we hope we’ll have this submitted to the Attorney General?”

City leaders said they did not have a timeline for the drafting of the questions.

Last week, Sen. Brenda Stanley sponsored the city’s request and submitted the letter to the attorney general’s office. Oklahoma state statute requires that official opinion requests to the attorney general be sponsored by an elected state official.

There is currently no timeline for when the attorney general will be able to review the request or provide an opinion back to the city.

 

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