County approves fair board election results despite alleged violations

By Joey McWilliams

DURANT – The Board of Commissioners for Bryan County on Tuesday at a special meeting approved the results from Saturday’s election with two yea’s and one abstention.

All incumbents will retain their seats.

The results are as follows:
• District 1: Larry Conditt – 107, Ashley Stuteville – 90
• District 2: Marty Hutchings – 160, Ken Edelen – 21
• District 3: Russell Thompson – 140, Roger Hedgecock – 13

Tony Simmons (Dist. 2) and Jay Perry (Dist. 3) approved the acceptance of the results. Ron Boyer (Dist. 1) abstained.

Prior to the reading of the results, Ashley Stuteville requested the opportunity to address the board of commissioners. She presented a list of irregularities, alleging a number of issues which included a violation of Oklahoma Statutes, violations of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act and voter suppression.

After hearing Stuteville’s statement, Perry suggested the matter be referred to the district attorney, and he would not say anything else about the matter.

“I’m not a lawyer,” Perry said. “I don’t really know anything about that.”

Simmons, however, said he felt that everything was done in order without the need of the attention of the D.A. and pushed for a motion to accept the results.

“I think we handled the election fine,” Simmons said. “I think we ought to stick with the results.”

The motion was made and seconded and the results were accepted with a 2-0 vote.

Stuteville pointed out to the board of commissioners a violation of the rules of posting the filing period, found in Oklahoma Statute Chapter 2 Section 15-113, which provides that notice of the filing period for candidacy for the fair board must be posted at least 10 days prior to the filing period.

The resolution to open the filing period was made on Jan. 29, 2019 and the filing period was opened on that day. It was sent to the paper of record in Durant on that day, as well. See the resolution HERE.

Other issues with the resolution and voting process have been addressed by the Patriot and can be read HERE.

Stuteville then spoke about the postponement of the election, which happened suddenly and the business day before the election was originally scheduled.

“The resolution, adopted by the commissioners on Jan. 29, 2019, set an election date,” Stuteville said. “It is believed that the date as adopted in the resolution was Feb. 11, 2019. However, the original resolution as maintained in the County Clerk’s file has been altered and the election date has been changed by hand to Feb. 23, 2019.

“This was not a correction of a typographical error. This was a material change of the most significant portion of the resolution – the election date.”

Stuteville then presented two possible scenarios of how this could have come about, with both being improper.

The first is that the election date was changed manually and impermissibly by someone other than the commissioners without all the knowledge of all the commissioners. Please see the image HERE.

The second entails a violation of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act. In this situation, two or more of the commissioners agreed to change the election date. The Oklahoma Open Meetings Act provides that official business cannot be conducted without the benefit to the public of a posted meeting and an open and recorded vote by the commissioners.

Government officials are not allowed to meet informally to decide action or take a vote on any matter. (Oklahoma Open Meetings Act – Title 25, Statutes 303, 305, 306)

“Regardless of which scenario above occurred, the material change of an election date that is governed by statute is not appropriate,” Stuteville said. “The amendment of an officially adopted resolution by whiting out and and modifying the most significant portion of the resolution clearly violates state law.”

She pointed out also that voters were turned away from at least one polling place on the day of the election.

“If attendants believed the voter to be ineligible, the ballot should have been accepted and reviewed for eligibility,” Stuteville said. “Instead, eligible voters may have been refused the opportunity to vote.”

She concluded her address to the commissioners by saying the results of the election should be set aside and that an election should be held for all three districts, one that would be in conformity with state statutes.

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