Bond money misused on rural water dam

Bond money misused on rural water dam

KINGFISHER -

This is part one in a special two-part investigation into the misuse of money by the City of Kingfisher. Click here for part two.

The year was 2007, when flood waters tore through many Oklahoma communities.  The massive rains and floods exposed a major problem in Oklahoma.  The state's rural flood control dams were reaching a critical point; they either needed repair or rural Oklahoma could face catastrophic floods.

"It was the worst we ever had," said Kingfisher Mayor Jack Stuteville referring to the 2007 flood that wrecked homes and businesses.

"Kingfisher has gotten to be known for its floods," Stuteville told Fox 25, "Okeene is known for rattlesnakes, Watonga for the cheese and Kingfisher for the floods."

Lawmakers wanted to take steps to fix the potential disaster and in 2009 approved a $25 million bond measure that promised to repair or build new rural dams.

"At the time we were asked to vote on bonds for needy dams," said State Representative Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), "Of all the bond projects that were proposed to us this, on the surface, seemed like the most valid proposal that was there that year."

Fast forward to 2013 and we've now learned $4 million of that bond money did not go to building or rebuilding dams.  Instead it went to a massive building buyout in the city of Kingfisher.

"It was no secret we were going to do work in Kingfisher and we were going to do specific work in Caddo County," said Mike Thralls the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, or OCC.  The OCC is in charge of the bond money and the rural dam project.

Thralls say they did consider building dams near Kingfisher, but they could not get enough landowners express interest in selling the land needed for the necessary number of dams.

The OCC says they cannot say how many dams $4 million would have built because they determined the best use of money would have been to proceed with a buyout.

"That wasn't the reason why we were told we needed to vote on this," Murphey said, "As representatives of the people when we make decisions we should be told what they are going to spend the money on regardless of the merits of the project."

Murphey re-read the legislation after we found the language that was signed into law years ago.  The legislation makes no mention of specific work for any buyout projects and never specifically mentions Kingfisher as a recipient of an earmark.

Thralls says the decision to help Kingfisher was made by the commission and will save lives.  However when Fox 25 followed the money we found a large part of it was going to purchase businesses and provide thousands of dollars for moving expenses to properties connected to city leaders.

Click here to read the rest of this Fox 25 Investigation.

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