Tahlequah Daily Press


June 23, 2014

As chamber scandal expands, plenty of blame to go around

TAHLEQUAH — If the proverbial buck being passed over the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce scandal were a real dollar bill, it would already be worn so thin you could read this newspaper through it.

Long-time area residents would be hard-pressed to remember an event with the potential to tarnish the city’s image and the reputation of some of its leading citizens. The allegations of embezzlement have launched a probe that seems to expand its scope almost daily.

As of Friday, sources close to the investigation were suggesting that over the past year, someone with access to chamber funds may have been frittering away about $10,000 a month at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa. And that might be just the tip of the iceberg.

The public was stunned by last week’s abrupt resignation of chamber Executive Director David Moore – and the news that subsequently, the OSBI had entered the fray.

The initial shock has given way to feelings of betrayal and outrage. Most people trusted Moore and considered him a mover and shaker, with the best interests of the city’s business community at heart. They’re wondering if he did something wrong, and how that could happen, with more than two dozen people supposedly tasked with oversight, in one form or another.

Police Chief Nate King, perceiving the possible ramifications, called in the OSBI, but in the meantime, dozens, if not hundreds of citizens – among them dues-paying members of the chamber – are demanding answers.

Chamber board members don’t want to talk, and those in the official position to do so have cited the probe as the reason for their reticence. That may or may not be a good excuse. The chamber – and certainly its ancillary body, the Tourism Council, which operates on taxpayer money – is accountable to the public it ostensibly serves. When board members drag their feet on the issue of transparency, they’re only exacerbating a climate of distrust.

Though it may be the wrong course of action, it’s understandable that chamber board members are reluctant to talk. They must rely on the expertise and honesty of people they hire, but perhaps they were not as vigilant as they should have been in minding the store.

Some – especially those who may have been seated because of their gullibility or trusting natures – may not have been fully apprised of their roles. It’s reasonable to wonder how many have read the chamber’s charter or its bylaws, or documents detailing how the city’s hotel-motel tax – one possible source of allegedly misused funds – was to be administered and used. That might also be true of city officials, both past and present.

A couple of city and chamber leaders are pointing the same fingers they were using to grind axes before this scandal broke. They need to remember Tahlequah’s is a “strong council, weak mayor” system. In other words, if the mayor is culpable, so are city councilors, and perhaps other city employees as well.

Before it’s all said and done, there will be plenty of blame to go around, and the intestinal fortitude of folks in the eye of the storm will be judged by their willingness to accept responsibility. But for now, all those even peripherally involved in city and chamber affairs need to start educating themselves on what they’re supposed to be doing, and try to convince the rest of us a calamity like this won’t ever happen again.

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    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

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    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014

  • New chamber head needs to be free from scandal’s taint

    Every time another layer is peeled off the unfolding saga of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce embezzlement case, those going through the records hope they might see a light at the end of the tunnel. So far, that hasn’t happened.

    June 30, 2014


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