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This morning polls opened at 7 a.m. for voters in Mustang School District, who will decide the fate of a $7 million bond issue.
Voters in Mustang’s Ward 6 will also choose among three men contending for that council seat.
Polls close at 7 p.m.; they are listed below for your convenience.
Mustang School District
211 – New Dimensions Church, 701 N. Cemetery Road, Yukon
215 – Church of Christ, 11700 N.W. 10th St., Yukon
221 – Canadian Valley Technology Center – Cowan Campus, 1701 S. Czech Hall Road, Yukon
223 – Canadian Hills Nazarene Church, 11744 W. Reno Ave., Yukon
224 – International Pentacostal Assembly Church, 12221 Park Ave., Yukon
225 – Westpointe Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 11001 W. Reno Ave., Yukon
227 – United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd, 10928 S.W. 15th St., Yukon
228 – Sara Road Baptist Church, 2015 N. Sara Road, Yukon
300 – Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 1100 N. Sara Road, Mustang
301 – Mustang Community Center, 1201 N. Mustang Road, Mustang
302 – Mustang Nazarene Church, 700 E. Highway 152, Mustang
303 – Church of Christ West Metro, 4900 S. Cemetery Road, Yukon
304 – Mustang Heights Baptist Church, 646 W. Highway 152, Mustang
306 – Chisholm Heights Baptist Church, 2243 W. Highway 152, Mustang
308/309 – Lakehoma Church of Christ, 2124 W. Highway 152, Mustang
Mustang City Council Ward 6
300 – Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 1100 N. Sara Road, Mustang
302 – Mustang Nazarene Church, 700 E. Highway 152, Mustang
303 – Church of Christ West Metro, 4900 S. Cemetery Road, Yukon
By Traci Chapman
A property that has been a blight on Mustang’s busiest intersection is about to get a major facelift, bringing with it at least one national tenant, city officials said.
On Tuesday, the six Mustang Council members present unanimously approved a development agreement between the city and KG Holdings/W.E.P. Land Holdings for development of the former Wal-Mart/Ace Hardware store, located on the northeast corner of state Highway 152 and Mustang Road. Ward 6 Councilman Donald Mount was absent.
Ken McGee, developer of the project, has entered into a lease with Stage for a portion of the existing store. The lease is expected to be finalized Feb. 14, broker Chris Reed said Tuesday, with construction beginning as early as Feb. 17, he said. Stores are expected to be ready for occupancy sometime in the third quarter, Reed said.
“They’ve basically just been waiting for us,” Mayor Jay Adams said.
In addition to a complete remodel of the existing 34,998-square-foot building already onsite, McGee plans to add almost 8,000 square feet to the complex, allowing for the addition of several more retail stores, Reed said.
“We have interest from another national tenant for about 5,000 square feet and we’re speaking to several others as well,” he said.
Announcements on additional tenants could be forthcoming in the near future, Reed said.
McGee has lived in Mustang for about 14 years, Reed said. His company also owns West End Pointe in Yukon, which includes the complex housing West End Pointe 8, as well as the shopping center where Lowe’s, Kohls and Staples are located, he said.
“We wanted to do something in Mustang, bring something to the local community,” Reed said.
The city offered financial incentives to bring the complex to Mustang, according to the development agreement approved Tuesday. Those incentives, totaling up to $580,000 over a 10-year period, will “discourage the loss of existing businesses and jobs, increase sales and ad valorem taxes, promote development and diversification of the economy, aid in the elimination of unemployment and underemployment, support expansion of commerce, increase the city’s and the public’s economic security, promote the public good and welfare, and generally promote economic growth and prosperity” in Mustang, the agreement stated.
Mustang’s long-range plan has targeted areas of state Highway 152, and specifically two aging and dilapidated strip centers located at its intersection with Mustang Road, Adams said. McGee’s development will go a long way to begin revitalization of that area, the mayor said.
“We’re hopeful this is just the first of many changes to those spots,” he said.
Under the agreement, Stage is required to generate at least $58,000 annually for the first 10 years. In return, the city will pay monthly installments of about $4,833 – $58,000 annually – to KG, beginning in December 2014. That date could fluctuate slightly, should construction be delayed by weather or unforeseen circumstances, City Manager Tim Rooney said. Incentives are a common tool used by cities to obtain retailers and have been used in Mustang many times, officials said.
Rooney and Robert Coleman, Mustang community development director, as well as several staff and council members worked “long and hard” to make the new development a reality, Adams said.
“We really need to applaud our staff, as well as our council, for their forward thinking in moving our city into the future,” the mayor said. “It’s a real bonus that we have a local developer, someone who really believes in our city, who has brought this to Mustang.”
By Traci Chapman
On Tuesday, Mustang Public Schools officials will take a second try at a bond issue aimed at expanding extracurricular activity resources, upgrading technology and providing storm shelters at some schools.
The $7 million proposal is different than a $4.05 million bond issue rejected by voters last November, although it does aim to provide funds for some of the projects listed in the original plan. While the November issue did get a majority of the votes – about 57.3 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of the plan – school bond issues require a 60 percent majority in order to pass.
A second proposition, $750,000 for six new route buses, was approved by voters.
Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel said the $1.6 million slated for “technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools” are items needed across the district. These items include smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, iPads and lab equipment for use district-wide in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM – program.
“The demands and expectations of our society require that our kids are proficient with the use of technology,” McDaniel said. “Our students will have the ability to acquire technological skills that will allow them to compete at the secondary and post-secondary levels and to allow them to be career-ready.”
Other courses that would benefit by these funds would be robotics and engineering courses, the superintendent said. Mustang High School students have performed well in robotics competitions held this year, an area that has gained interest in recent years, officials said.
If passed by voters, $1 million would be designated to “constructing, equipping, renovating and furnishing” storm shelters at Mustang Education Center and Mustang High School campus, according to the resolution approved by school board members. While each school has refuge areas, older sites do not have shelters certified by Federal Emergency Management Agency, McDaniel said.
“The two areas that need attention in our district are on the high school campus (we actually do currently have areas of refuge at MHS) and at the MEC (Mustang Education Center),” McDaniel stated in a recent email.
The cost to build FEMA-certified shelters in older school sites, such as Mustang Elementary School, would be cost-prohibitive, officials said. That school does have a basement that has been historically used to shelter students during storms.
Some of Mustang’s older elementary schools would see improvements, if Tuesday’s bond issue passes. New playground equipment – to the tune of $200,000 – would be purchased for Mustang and Lakehoma elementary schools, while $100,000 would be allocated to upgrade lighting at Trails Elementary School and Mustang North Middle School.
Another $800,000 would be used for acquisition of land for future construction of new schools or other buildings in the south and central areas of the district.
Extracurricular activities funds
The bulk of funding in the $7 million proposal would be used for extracurricular activities. Those programs are as follows:
- $375,000 for district “arts programs.” This would include instruments, stage lighting, software and band uniforms.
- $300,000 for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new barn for the agricultural education program.” The district’s barn, utilized by FFA and 4-H students, is located at 7916 S. County Line Road.
- $1.225 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a softball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams.”
- $1.4 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new ROTC training and instructional center” at Mustang High School.
More than 200 students participate in Mustang High School’s band program alone, with hundreds more taking middle-school level classes, as well as drama, choir and other arts activities, officials said. The $375,000 would help fund needs for lighting, uniforms, instruments and other items used by those individuals.
McDaniel said about 200 students currently participate in the district’s agriculture programs, a number which has caused issues because of a 37-year-old barn that is not suited to that level of activity.
“We have so many students who need space to raise animals that each pen in the barn has two or three animals in it,” McDaniel said. “The pens are designed for one animal to each pen.
“Not only is this an unhealthy practice, it makes it nearly impossible to properly raise the animals,” he said.
Because of the aged barn and lack of space, the district has been forced to turn away students interested in participating in the program, the superintendent said. It has also meant that other needed activities – like welding stations, lab areas and needed equipment – must go by the wayside.
“AgEd teaches many life skills, from leadership to discipline to a good work ethic,” McDaniel said. “Our kids need more space.”
With Mustang competing in 6A classification and with Mustang High School listed as the largest high school in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, an expansion of the district’s baseball complex was essential, the superintendent said.
“Because of its size, only four to six kids at a time can use the facility,” McDaniel said. “A new facility would allow 25 to 30 kids to use the facility at one time and would provide the same opportunities for our kids as other 6A programs provide for theirs.
“Baseball and softball, along with other athletic programs in Mustang, provide opportunities for our students to learn about sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork and other valuable life skills that they will take with them long after they graduate,” he said. “Providing quality facilities that allow these kids to reach their full potential is important.”
Like the district’s agriculture education program, Junior ROTC is an area that has been underfunded, with students utilizing three classrooms at Mustang High School, as well as an old physical education building, McDaniel said.
“The creation of a stand-alone facility would free up much-needed space at the high school for academic offerings like STEM labs or technology labs,” the superintendent said. “Unfortunately, we have run out of space for the program, and the current facility would require in excess of $600,000 to bring it up to standards that would allow us to continue using it.”
The proposed $1.4 million JROTC housing would include a training area, offices, classrooms and storage, McDaniel said.
“The Mustang JROTC program offers opportunities to students who may not have found a niche anywhere else,” he said.
“We want what’s best for our students, to give them every opportunity we can to excel, to achieve and to learn the skills they need down the road in life,” McDaniel said.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday.
By Traci Chapman
Two of three candidates for the Mustang Ward 6 City Council seat listed their priorities of what they hoped to accomplish if elected.
The election will be Tuesday. Incumbent Donal Mount declined to respond to questions about the election posed to the candidates by the News.
“Upon the advice of my attorney I have been instructed to ‘not’ correspond with you,” Mount stated in a Feb. 3 email sent in response to a News email which contained questions.
Mount has been embroiled in a controversy with city officials over what they contend is a form of harassment. Mount has made more than 70 open records requests during the past 18 months. Mount took issue with a recent story in the News in which City Manager Tim Rooney said the records requests have become burdensome and “bullying.”
The two men who are challenging Mount for the seat, Jess Schweinberg and Nathan Sholund, did respond to the questions posed, many of which were posed to the News by its readers. Those questions were:
- What are the three top priorities you would like to accomplish if elected (re-elected)?
- Please expand a little more on your background and how it will help you in the upcoming council term.
- What do you believe is the most important quality for a city councilman?
- Is being able to work together with city staff, fellow council members and others an important part of the job?
- Are there things going on in the city you would like to see changed? If yes, please detail and advise how you would go about seeking those changes.
- Would you like to provide any information about your family (names, etc., and how they have inspired you to serve your community, etc.)?
- Any other comments you would like to make?
Decision could be made in February
In December, 56-year-old Schweinberg and Sholund, 25, filed their intentions to challenge Mount for the Ward 6 seat. The three men are competing for a council seat, which is non-partisan and has a three-year term. If one candidate receives a majority – more than 50 percent of the vote – during the February primary, that person will be elected to the seat, Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold said in December. If none of the three candidates hits the majority mark, the two individuals who receive the most votes will move on to the April 1 general election, she said.
Schweinberg has been a homeowner in Mustang since 2000, having moved here in 1999 from Yukon, where he raised his family. Schweinberg was recently appointed to his second term on Mustang Board of Adjustment and is managing partner with Metro Sign Corp., an Oklahoma City sign manufacturer.
Schweinberg and his wife of 38 years, Cindy, are charter members of Mustang Crime Stoppers, involved in the organization’s start-up, as well as creating bylaws, signage and other activities, he said. Schweinberg’s son, Troy Schweinberg, lives in Mustang with his family; daughter Carla Kudrna and her family live in Tuttle. Schweinberg has been active in youth organizations, including the Yukon Jays. He served on that board for more than 10 years, the last five of those as president, he said. He came out of coaching “retirement” to join Troy leading the T-ball team of two of his granddaughters, he said.
“Finding problems and solutions are different character traits, I am about finding solutions,” Schweinberg said.
Sholund works at the Federal Aviation Administration and studies aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He was raised in Mustang since 1992, graduating from Mustang High School in 2008. Sholund served in the U.S. Navy on an amphibious assault ship and was deployed in 2009-2010, he said. His father is pastor of Life Tabernacle UPC, and the Mustang man said he returned home to be near family and friends after his discharge.
“I have given back to my country, now I would like to give back to my town,” Sholund said
What are the three top priorities you would like to accomplish if elected (re-elected)?
- Schweinberg – To make sure the infrastructure is of such to sustain the present growth of the city, being selective on what we allow, so as not to take away from the appearance of the city.
- Sholund – My top three priorities for this city if elected would be to help with the general care and maintenance around the city, such as roads that are in desperate need of repair. Also, I would like to see some kind of expansion of roadways as well in the near future, like on 59th or why 152 for that matter around 5 o’clock for that matter is clogged and backed up with traffic. I would love to see more roads or wider lanes put in to help with that. And lastly I would like to see Mustang growing in a good and healthy positive way, with more families moving to Mustang, along with businesses and be able to keep that small town feel here.
Please expand a little more on your background and how it will help you in the upcoming council term.
- Schweinberg – Recently completed my first term on the Board of Adjustments, managing partner, and president of a successful business in Oklahoma City, Metro Sign Corp.
- Sholund – I was raised here in Mustang since 1992 and graduated from Mustang High School in 2008, I left shortly thereafter for the United States Navy, and served on an Amphibious Assault Ship and was deployed to the east in 2009-2010. Since I have been out of the military, I have moved back home near family and friends. My father pastors a church here, Life Tabernacle UPC. I have always loved Mustang and felt that this is my home where I have been raised. I believe my age is a liability to me in this campaign, in the fact that I don’t have a lot of background in this. But I have a lot of strengths to be offered as well. If the people of Ward 6 choose to elect me and stand behind me, I will give them and the city of Mustang 100 percent of me.
What do you believe is the most important quality for a city councilman?
- Schweinberg – To be transparent, a problem solver not a problem maker. Have a vision, strong communicator, willing to work the job, and to work closely with the city manager and staff. Being prepared to address all issues brought in front of the council at the time of the meeting, not after the vote has been casted, not after it has been voted on.
- Sholund - The most important quality for a councilman is in my opinion trust. The people who have elected you have put their trust in you to do the right thing, and if it is broken it is hard to regain. I want people to know, that they can trust me, to do what is right and to be truthful all the time.
Is being able to work together with city staff, fellow council members and others an important part of the job?
- Schweinberg – That’s actually the most important part of the job, along with being available to the constituents in not just the Ward, but the entire city.
- Sholund – To be able to work well with others is most definitely an important part of the job. Being able to communicate well with others and to learn both sides of a story is what it is all about, being able to compromise and make a fair call/judgment, that is what the very foundation of America is built on. Everyone having a voice, and learning where two sides can meet, for the benefit of all.
Are there things going on in the city you would like to see changed? If yes, please detail and advise how you would go about seeking those changes.
Both Schweinberg and Sholund expressed confidence in the city and its staff and did not see anything in particular that needed to be changed. Schweinberg went on to say he believed Rooney was an excellent choice for the city, based on several factors.
“I was not involved in the hiring of the city manager, I can say with strong convictions, the recent articles in the News, regarding the emails and letters to the staff and the city manager, I am confident that the hiring of Tim Rooney, was for the best of this city,” Schweinberg said. “He has shown this resident that he is the best man for the job, and has a staff that he can count on.
“A manager that does not stand in defense of his staff is not a manager in my eyes,” he said. “It is time to allow them all to do their jobs.”
Linda Hagan, who has served as Ward 5 councilwoman since 2005, did not draw an opponent. Hagan also served on Council from 1975 to 1979 and from 1996 until 2005.
Hagan said recently she was happy to serve another term for her ward and was excited to be a part of decisions that will impact those residents living there.
“This is a great city and I am lucky to have wonderful constituents in my ward,” Hagan said. “I’m grateful I’ve had this opportunity and look forward to continuing in this role.”
Canadian County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the loss of one of their own, after the unexpected death of Sgt. Gary Garrison.
The 64-year-old department veteran died of an apparent heart attack last weekend while on duty, Undersheriff Chris West said. Garrison worked for the sheriff’s department for 17 years. Before that, he was employed at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno. He also served in the United States Army.
“Sgt. Garrison will be dearly missed by his law enforcement friends and family,” West said.
Sheriff Randall Edwards said the loss was especially hard, not only because of Garrison’s long tenure at the department, but also his impact on everyone he worked with and helped in his long career.
“Gary was a good friend, he was one of my training supervisors when I was first hired in 2000 that trained me,” Edwards said Sunday. “He was a good man, family man and law enforcement officer.
“Everyone loved him,” he said.
Funeral services were held Wednesday in El Reno.
By Traci Chapman
It’s a long way from Mustang, Oklahoma, to the Sundance Film Festival, but that’s exactly where Jeff Robison spent last week.
Robison is one of the writers and producers of “Rudderless,” the William Macy-directed film selected to close out the festival, held last week in Park City, Utah. With a top-billed actor selecting his film as his directorial debut, Robison said the movie was another step in a dream job for him and writing partner Casey Twenter. It was a dream that started when both men were very young, Robison said.
“I’ve always loved movies,” he said. “I remember watching the 1933 version of King Kong, when I was about 4 years old.
“I’ll never forget bawling when King Kong falls off the Empire State Building, and I was connected with movies even then, they were something magical,” Robison said.
That was back when Robison was a boy from Mustang, a 1990 Mustang High School graduate who said he knew he wanted to do big things – he just didn’t have it all mapped out at that point.
“I went to Northwestern for one year and graduated from OSU in 1995,” he said. “My major was education, and I knew that was a good way to go.”
Where his education took him was back home, teaching for five years at Mustang Valley Elementary, alongside teachers who had taught him several years before.
“It was a great learning experience – some of the best teaching times I had,” Robison said. “Pam McLaughlin was the best boss I ever had, the teachers were the best I ever worked with, some of the best women I ever knew.”
From Mustang Valley, Robison moved to Putnam City Middle School, then Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School, teaching and coaching “pretty much everything but soccer, baseball and swimming.” He also coached his children’s teams, utilizing his own athletic experience as a MHS basketball player.
But while he loved teaching, Robison said movies were always in his blood, something that simmered under the surface until he got married. It was then Robison decided he needed to write a “legitimate” script. He bought software and a screenwriting bible and took his best shot.
“I wrote this script without really knowing what I’m doing,” he said.
While nothing came from that first effort, a chance meeting would spark Robison’s writing career. Enter Casey Twenter, who had his own Canadian County ties.
“We met at a fantasy football draft,” Robison said. “We started talking about movies and developed a friendship from there.
“It was the first time I’d met a friend I could really bounce ideas off without feeling idiotic,” he said.
Twenter lived in Oklahoma City, after getting a cross country scholarship from University of Central Oklahoma. He met his wife, Cristi – a Yukon High School graduate – and got a job at Hallmark. The couple now have a daughter, Kaitlyn, who is 8. Robison’s family was also growing – with wife, Jeni, he had two children of his own, Grace, 7, and Jake, who is now 6, he said.
Their families were the partners’ greatest inspiration and biggest concern as they moved from writing part time to a full-time effort, Robison said. Throughout the difficult decision to give up teaching to pursue his dream, his mom was instrumental in giving him the push he needed, he said. A secretary with Lakehoma Elementary for 25 years, Jill Thomson knew just what to say and do to keep her son believing in himself and his goals, he said.
“My mom has always believed in me – she’s been so supportive, has millions of friends, a lot of Mustang people, and there’s a community of Mustang friends who have been incredibly supportive,” Robison said. “Mom’s kind of been the ring leader for that.”
Even with so much strong encouragement, working toward their goal was nerve-wracking, Robison said. There were several stops and starts, times when the pair thought they had something that would sell and nothing materialized.
“It can be a frustrating business,” he said. “We would get down and I would say, ‘Dude, we’re in Oklahoma City, we’re not going to get anything.’”
The partners didn’t let the low times discourage them completely, however. The two would write and write, generating scripts in almost every genre, from horror to romantic comedies and dramas. Twenter would pound on doors looking for backing and the pair started meeting with known actors, people like Keith Carradine, Laurence Fishburne and Rob Schneider.
“We were ecstatic – these guys were actually meeting with us,” Robison said.
The excitement didn’t last for long after Robison and Twenter discovered they couldn’t raise funds to make their movie. But instead of being the end of their dream, two events would soon prove to be a turning point for the men.
“We were pretty depressed about the situation – I’m still teaching, he’s still in advertising – and I said, ‘Let’s make something else,’” Robison said. “You go to the movie store and it’s lined with horror movies, so we decided to go that route and make our own movie.”
The end result was “The Jogger,” a 2013 thriller written and directed by Robison and Twenter. On the first movie set the pair had ever stepped on, they filmed the production over 15 days, mostly in Edmond, Robison said. The film won Best Narrative at the LA Indie Film Fest, Kansas City Film Festival and the Tulsa United Film Festival, and has garnered positive reviews from critics and viewers alike on online sites. That was a turning point, but there was one other – when a chance call led to the pair’s biggest connection to date – William H. Macy.
“Ironically, Casey calls Creative Artists Agency and magically – it was a fluke – he got the agent of William H. Macy directly on the phone,” Robison said. “We had read Macy wanted to start directing, so we changed our strategy to try to get him to direct, so we sent the agent the script.
“I was at parent teacher conference in Piedmont the next week, and Casey is calling and calling and texting me, telling me to look at my email,” he said. “I told him, ‘I’m going to tell you right now if this is a joke I’m going to drive to Kansas City and we’re going to get into a pretty big fight.
“The next we knew we were sitting in William H. Macy’s house in L.A., eating dinner with him and his wife and daughters – I had two bites of chicken and could barely talk,” Robison said.
After four years of trying to get the movie going, by May the movie was in production and cast and crew were told it would be screened at Sundance. The dream was a reality.
“We can’t yet do this full time, but we now have something tangible we can hold onto and believe in,” he said.
Rudderless is only the beginning, Robison said. The partners have about 20 scripts finished and are constantly working on more. The pair hopes Oklahoma film incentives will allow them to shoot their next film this summer.
“It’s been a fascinating journey,” Robison said. “I understand how blessed I am to be able to live this dream, even for a year or two, of course, we want to do this for the rest of our lives.”
By Traci Chapman
Ward 6 Councilman Don Mount has submitted more than 71 letters and open records requests to Mustang city managers in the last 18 months.
Mount says he has sent the correspondence and requests in the process of being a conscientious councilman; some of his fellow council members and city staff say it has been a campaign of abuse and intimidation.
“Your continuing insinuations, allegations and charges of intentional misdoings on behalf of Ms. Watts (finance director Janet Watts), the previous leadership and the city of Mustang as a whole are tantamount to bullying and will not be tolerated by this office or any other office of the city of Mustang,” City Manager Tim Rooney wrote in a Sept. 20, 2013 email to Mount. “If you feel strongly, individually, that you have information and documentation that indicates malfeasance on behalf of anyone in this organization, I encourage and welcome you to take necessary legal action to pursue justice.”
“I am disturbed about your so-called ‘findings of many allegations of wrongdoing’ in my letters, however I am also pleased to know that you have the qualifications to ‘render these kinds of judgments,’” Mount said in a Jan. 28 email responding to questions about his interactions with fellow council members and city staff. “I shall continue to exercise my rights as to free speech and if any public officials makes a statement or publishes a statement that I choose to question, I shall do so.”
Mount was elected to the Ward 6 seat in 2011, after he defeated incumbent Katherine Callahan in a runoff election marked by what officials called “low turnout.” A February primary that year only drew a total of 85 voters; Mount collected 108 ballots, compared with 72 cast for Callahan in the runoff.
City officials said issues began to crop up soon after his election, but they spiked after City Manager Mike Rutledge resigned in February 2013. Upon taking the position of interim city manager, Justin Battles was “deluged” with information requests, certified letters and emails about city practices, his performance and a variety of other problems, Rooney said.
“When a person holds himself out, in a public meeting, to be an authority, expert or makes a bold statement about something that he knows nothing about, I will ask him for proof or supporting evidence of his statement,” Mount said in a July 26 letter to Battles. “‘Just like you did about construction estimates not being furnished because, THE BOND CONTROLS THAT.’
“When you said that, in open meeting, I then will question it,” the councilman continued. “I do not know why you provided the entire ‘transcript’ and I doubt that you just recently made a copy of the materials, but to answer my own question, the reason you provided it all was probably because you did not know what it was.”
Issues continued when Rooney took the helm as city manager in August. Rooney and council members said Mount did not take part in the hiring process, something Mount disputed, in part.
“In your vast accumulation of “my letter” you should find one dated April 30, 2013 to Mr. Battles wherein I told him I could not be available,” Mount said in his Jan. 28 email to the News. “Also on that same day, at 6:35 p.m. Mr. Battles called me about the special meeting for that day.
“I will not detail every event relative to this matter but one such major happening was the fact that my wife was having ‘strokes’ and of course I shall always make that my first priority,” Mount continued. “I am terribly sorry if this does not please you.”
The councilman’s April 30 letter to Battles detailed four reasons for not attending the employment sessions, set as a special meeting that evening. In advising Battles he would not be available for the meeting, Mount stated: “1. Curtailment and not allowed to ask all of my questions of candidates; 2. Selective audience allowed to be present in the executive meetings; 3. I have already received all the information that I need to know about the golf course and restaurant in El Reno (not relevant to subject at hand); and 4. Lack of receipt of timely notice required by law, of the special meeting.”
In checking city records, staff posted the meeting notice according to state public meeting requirements; Battles could not have called Mount at 6:35 p.m. because the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., officials said.
When asked if it is important for council members to be a part of the city manager hiring process, Mount did not respond.
Rooney’s hiring seemed to accelerate the councilman’s letters, emails and open records requests. The city manager said his staff has been deluged by requests that have kept them from their regular duties.
September 2013 was a month in which Mount sent 14 emails, letters and requests for information to Rooney and his staff. According to city records, requests ranged from a Sept. 5 letter asking for bank statements as of June 30, 2013 for “20 different bank accounts” to several missives concerning clean-up expenses and FEMA reimbursements made to Mustang as a result of the May 31 storm. It was at that time Rooney said he “struck back” at what he called the bullying and harassment of his staff.
“The staff of the finance department and this organization needs to move forward in closing out the books for 2013 – which needs to be completed by Sept. 30, 2013,” Rooney told Mount in his Sept. 20, 2013 email to the councilman. “That needs to be our focus over the next 10 days and I am going to be certain to afford them that opportunity.
“Unless directed to do so by an action of the entire city council, I will not be responding to any more of your emails or letters regarding your need for clarity and understanding on FEMA related reimbursements,” he continued.
“I do appreciate your permission to contact the state of Oklahoma, as if I needed it,” Mount responded in a Sept. 21 email. “I like your threat wherein you state, ‘you are the only member…This must stop.’
“It truly frightens me when I am threatened by anyone so why don’t you just proceed right ahead on and do what you think is best,” the councilman continued. “What ever it is that I do, that you will not tolerate will not keep me awake at night and I suggest that you proceed with your corrective measures.”
In response to Rooney’s statement the finance department needed to finish closing out the city books as of Sept. 30 and would hold off on responding to Mount’s document requests until that was completed, Mount said, “I realize that you already know that I did not address the most important statement made by you in your email to me. I admit that initially I was just considering holding on to it until a more opportune time, date and venue.
Invoking portions of the Freedom of Information Act, Mount stated, “Since you have invoked the ‘negative compliance and published notice that you intend to violate the law,’ I, Don Mount as one member of the entire city council DIRECT YOU to comply with all open record request including but not limited to FEMA related reimbursements documents and any and all other open record request in accordance with and in compliance with the laws of the great state of Oklahoma. Please take notice.”
Rooney said while he didn’t have an issue with any council member asking questions and requesting information, it was the tone of those communications and the fact the city manager said Mount had a good deal of the information already in his hands.
“A lot of these things have been items Mr. Mount already had in his possession,” Rooney said. “They were concerning items he had voted on as a councilman – a lot of times voting in favor of them.”
“I suppose that when you were employed and came to Mustang as city manager, that my hopes and expectations were much too great,” Mount wrote to Rooney in a Jan. 11 email. “I thought perhaps you would be the Messiah that Mustang needed so badly, at least those were the kind of thoughts I had.”
While disputes between the councilman and city manager have been frequent, Mount’s “disdain” for anyone who displeases him has been made very public, Mayor Jay Adams said. Through a series of letters to the editor, Mount waged what Adams called a “personal campaign,” while also emailing fellow council members, Rooney, City Attorney Jonathan Miller, staff and outside contractors about a myriad of issues that displeased him.
“I just picked up my council book and started thumbing through the agenda items when I came upon agenda item commentary, item H-1,” Mount stated in a Jan. 4 email to Miller. “I immediately dropped the book and ran into the bathroom, looked in the mirror to see if the word ‘stupid’ was written on my forehead.
“The reason that I had to check this out is because of the longevity of this item, the handling of it and the professional people associated with it,” he continued.
Miller replied there were no issues or illegalities with the agenda item. Mount voted, along with his fellow council members, in favor of the item, a request to send out for bids the Wild Horse Park baseball and soccer complex concession and restroom project.
“It is becoming more and more difficult for me to sit in the mockery of a formal council meeting,” Mount wrote to fellow council members in an Oct. 2 email. “Perhaps the new city manager thinks that he has an equal voice, consideration, rights and discussion privileges as does a city council member.
“I think that early in the new city manager’s tenure, it should be explained to him exactly what his duties and responsibilities are,” Mount concluded.
Mount has alleged wrongdoing by the city on several occasions, even after Miller and others have stated there was no illegal activity.
“I am not able to understand why the city will not abide by the law and go ahead and spend the money to properly do this job,” Mount stated to Miller in a Jan. 4 email. “I am not able to understand why the city of Mustang wants to circumvent the law.”
“We still believe that the handling of this matter from the inception to date, is a deliberate and intentional gross violation of the Public Competitive Bidding Act by the City of Mustang,” Mount stated to Rooney in a Jan. 11 letter.
Rooney said staff conferred with Miller and bond counsel on the issue – an electrical switch accidentally left off the original Town Center remodel contract.
“There was no problem, no issues with legality or bidding,” the city manager said, pointing to emails from officials advising a change order on the project was appropriate.
“I still enjoy what I some time refer to as Cinderella stories or fairy tales,” Mount stated in a Sept. 18 email to Rooney concerning the city budget. “In my opinion, the report is distorted, misleading and does not make disclosure of the true facts.
“This report does not consider any related costs for any of these, nor does it give any consideration to the cost of insurance,” he continued. “I see reports like this and I am reminded of what the great Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 11; ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I thought as a child; but when I be came a man, I put away childish things,’ therefore I no longer believe in fairy tales.”
“Because you do not like the report or do not understand it does not mean it is ‘distorted, misleading, and does not make disclosure of the true facts.’ In fact, you include figures in your email that are not reimbursable and are directly misleading,” Rooney replied on Sept. 20.
“I am not on any kind of witch hunt and I am not trying to uncover any thing,” Mount stated in a Jan. 21 email to the News. “I probably put forth more effort in trying to do a good job on behalf of the citizens than most elected officials do.
“I am an elected official that represents the Citizens who elected me and I bow down to no man,” he continued.
“In your fourth paragraph, your bold and positive statement is totally without merit, but to answer your question – statements made in the commentary give reason,” Mount stated in his Jan. 28 email to the News. “The documents give reason. The lack of documents give reason and further I do not choose to make full disclosure of all things at this time.”
The “fourth paragraph” was a query about a Jan. 21 agenda item, in which council approved the purchase of five replacement vehicles for Mustang Police Department, on which Mount was the lone vote cast against the expenditure. “Why did you vote against the purchase of the five new police cars at last council meeting,” was the question asked of the councilman.
As stated on Page 1A of the Jan. 30, 2014 issue of the Mustang News, the following are Jan. 28, 2014 email communications between Ward 6 Councilman Don Mount and Mustang News Editor Traci Chapman. See the News’ Thursday edition and the related story for more information.
(Emails are exactly as sent/received)
From: Traci Chapman [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 9:41 AM
Subject: Additional Questions
> Mr. Mount,
> I have a couple of additional questions as I wrap up my story for publication on Thursday.
> 1. I have reviewed a large bulk of the letters you have submitted to > city officials and have found there are many allegations of wrongdoing, but they seem to be generally rather unspecific and I am unaware of any actions taken against anyone at the city for wrongdoing? Are there specific allegations you are making against anyone? If so, could you please detail these and advise what backup information you have?
> 2. I understand you took no part in hiring City Manager Timothy Rooney (did not participate in his interviews, etc.). Is there a reason why you did not participate in this process? Is the hiring of a city manager something all members of the council should be a part of?
> 3. You seem quite critical of Mr. Rooney and Interim City Manager Justin Battles, both in the statements made in your letters, as well as the tone with which I’ve heard you address them at council meetings? Do you have specific objections to the performance of these individuals?
> 4. Why did you vote against the purchase of the five new police cars at last council meeting?
> If you could please respond sometime today, I would be most appreciative. I apologize for not sending this email yesterday; we’ve had several breaking news items that I had to address before I got back to this story.
> Thank you,
> Traci Chapman
On 2014-01-28 13:33, Don Mount wrote:
> Dear Ms. Traci Chapman:
> I am delighted to talk with the press and I will again answer your questions. I am sorry that you missed your other deadline on 1/21/14 when you emailed me with your questions and were on a deadline then. I am pleased that you have “reviewed a large bulk of my letters”. I am disturbed about your so-called “findings of many allegations of wrongdoing” in my letters, however I am also pleased to know that you have the qualifications to “render these kinds of judgments” I shall continue to exercise my rights as to free speech and if any public officials makes a statement or publishes a statement that I choose to question, I shall do so. I also notice your ability to use words like “generally rather unspecific” in classifying words or things that you accuse me of having said. I am sure that perhaps you are unaware of a lot of things because I have not observed your being around for any length of time. In your second numbered paragraph I must tell you that “again” you are terribly wrong in your so-called “understanding” with respect to hiring City Manager Timothy Rooney. I was a part of that process to a point. In your vast accumulation of “my letter” you should find one dated April 30, 2013 to Mr. Battles wherein I told him I could not be available. Also on that same day, at 6:35 p.m. Mr. Battles called me about the special meeting for that day. I will not detail every event relative to this matter but one such major happening was the fact that my wife was having “strokes” and of course I shall always make that My first priority. I am terribly sorry if this does not please you. I am also displeased with the inference of your third numbered paragraph. Your ability to detect my being critical of anyone and my “tone” are simply amazing. I have lived with my dear wife for over fifty-eight years and she still does not have that ability. I know that you must be an amazing, intelligent young lady to have acquired all of the skills and attributes that you have published in your email today. In your fourth paragraph, your bold and positive statement is totally without merit, but to answer your question. Statements made in the commentary give reason. The documents give reason. The lack of documents give reason and further I do not choose to make full disclosure of all things at this time. I sure hope that the timing of my email back to you will again meet todays time frames for you because each time they are urgent. I am glad to learn how busy that you are with all of the breaking news items and I can tell that only you could “address them”. In closing I will tell you that my thoughts with respect to serving the citizens of Mustang is to gather information and makeing it available to them. I have every right to request records according to law. I might suggest to you that you make the acquaintance of professor Joey Senat, Ph. D. OSU School of Journalism and Broadcasting. I look forward to many more encounters with you.
> Good Luck
> Don Mount
From: Traci Chapman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 1:18 PM
To: Don Mount
Subject: RE: Additional Questions
>Dear Mr. Mount,
>I am sorry about your wife’s strokes. I hope she has recovered.
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Additional Questions
Date: 2014-01-28 17:06
From: “Don Mount” <email@example.com>
Dear Ms. Chapman:
>Thanks and no she has not recovered, as if you really care. You failed to mention the rest of my response so I assume that it passed your critical analysis. I can hardly wait until Thursday when your publication comes out.
By Kelly Rupp and Traci Chapman
Bank of Union customers and vendors were surprised last Friday afternoon, when the Oklahoma Banking Commission closed the 113-year-old bank.
Bank of Union had full-service locations in El Reno and Union City, as well as a loan and commercial lending center in Oklahoma City. The three locations were reopened Saturday as BancFirst. Investigators with the FDIC were on-site Friday reviewing records and speaking with bank employees, officials said. FDIC was named receiver of Bank of Union’s assets and liabilities at the time it was closed, at 3 p.m. Jan. 24.
For Bank of Union customers, accounts would be transferred to BancFirst, although they would be able to use their current checks and debit cards, as well as online banking features and ATMs, said Jay Hannah, BancFirst executive vice president. Anyone with a loan at Bank of Union should continue to make their regular payments as scheduled. Loan terms would not change because Bank of Union entered into contracts with those customers. Customers should contact their regular loan officer with any questions they might have, he said.
“I can tell you that we will operate the bank with normal hours, full service, and with the same friendly faces that customers know. We are very happy to be a member of the Union City and El Reno communities,” Hannah said.
Although accounts have been automatically transferred to BancFirst, customers may withdraw their funds from any transferred account without an early withdrawal penalty until they enter into a new deposit agreement with BancFirst as long as the deposits are not pledged as collateral for loans
Bank of Union was chartered on Nov. 13, 1900. Originally located in Union City when it was still a part of Oklahoma Territory, the bank eventually grew to include the El Reno and Oklahoma City locations.
Questions about the bank first became public in June 2013, when Bank of Union was placed under a consent order by FDIC and Oklahoma State Banking Department. In August, the bank entered into an agreement with the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, Mo., which required it to comply with specific conditions to improve its financial stability. Officials at that time said the bank had approved several loans without proper collateral. As of Sept. 30, 2013, the bank reported it had about $331.4 million in total assets and $328.8 million in total deposits. BancFirst assumed all of the failed bank’s deposits and agreed to purchase about $225.5 million of its assets, said Greg Hernandez, FDIC spokesman.
Bank of Union had an asset ratio of 166 percent last March, according to the FDIC. An asset ratio over 100 percent can be an indication that a bank is under stress and struggling with delinquent loans, officials said. At that time, bank president John Shelley said Bank of Union had undergone a period of rapid growth in assets over the past five years, thanks in part to the booming energy sector and agricultural activity in Canadian County. Because of the economic growth, the bank had grown from $190 million in assets five years ago to $400 million, Shelley said.
Bank of Union is the second FDIC-insured bank in the country to fail this year, Hernandez said.
“The last FDIC-insured institution closed in Oklahoma was First Capital Bank in Kingfisher, which closed on June 8, 2012,” he said.
Bank of Union employees were serving the public as usual on Monday under the BancFirst mantle. Sixty-three people were employed by the bank, 50 of them at the El Reno branch. The status of Michael Braun, who was just recently named interim president and CEO of Bank of Union, was unknown. Braun was given the post after Shelley retired in December.
“Our goal is to recapitalize the bank,” Braun said recently. “You hate to lose a community bank,” he said, referring to numerous city, community and school projects The Bank of Union has helped fund through the years.
Customers who have questions about the transaction can call the FDIC toll free at 800-405-8251. Information is also available online at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/bankofunion.html.
By Traci Chapman
A Mustang High School graduate was one of two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers injured in a Jan. 25 fatal shooting.
Ryan Smith was shot in the face and was expected to go home in the next day or two, Capt. George Brown said Tuesday. An eight-year OHP veteran, Smith graduated from Mustang High School in 2002.
Trooper Chris Bunch, who has been with OHP for a year, was also shot, sustaining an injury to his leg. He has been released from the hospital, Brown said.
The troopers were injured in a chase that began on an Interstate 35 service road near SE 29th in Oklahoma City, Brown said.
“The pursuit ended near Interstate 40 and Sunnylane Road in Del City,” Brown said. “At the end of the pursuit, a man exited his vehicle and exchanged fire with the troopers.”
Brown declined to release the identity of the man, who was killed in the incident.