Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 19, 2014

TMSA’s Haley takes interim chamber helm

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah Main Street Director Drew Haley will assume temporary leadership of the Chamber of Commerce after a board vote Wednesday evening.

Haley was unanimously approved as the interim executive director of the chamber, which is at the center of a local and state investigation into allegations of embezzlement.

Former Executive Director David Moore quit his post a week ago as the accusations became public. He provided no reason for stepping down, board members said.

Moore called in sick the entire week prior to his resignation. His cell phone has been disconnected, and his Facebook page has been removed. His Twitter account remains online but hasn’t been active since the last week of May.

According to chamber board members, Haley will be paid 25 percent of his Tahlequah Main Street salary to act as interim director of the chamber.

Board members met behind closed doors for less than an hour before picking Haley.

The board was also set to discuss changing the chamber’s bank accounts, but members tabled action until their next meeting. The decision not to take immediate action shocked several chamber members who were attending the meeting.

Board member Isabel Baker suggested the decision gives the board more time to “check with several banks,” which prompted several chamber members  in the audience to ask why the board didn’t arrive prepared.

After the meeting, board members told the Daily Press their decision not to change bank accounts was also made because of the ongoing criminal probe, which  is focused on existing bank accounts.

Board President Stanley Young said Moore no longer has access to the chamber’s accounts.

Board members also confirmed that all employees of the chamber and all board members who are authorized to sign checks are covered by an insurance policy, or bond, as ordered by chamber bylaws. Those regulations indicate two of three people – the executive director, the treasurer and the president – are supposed to sign all checks, or another board member can be appointed to be the second signator.

Other members of the board are not covered by the policy, Young said.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, Young issued a written statement on behalf of the board.

“As a volunteer board, the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce relied heavily on the professional staff who we trusted for many years to properly follow the appropriate rules, policies and procedures,” his statement read. “That trust has apparently been violated and we will, of course, fully cooperate with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and other appropriate authorities to address the issues that are before us. We will not make any additional public comments regarding the ongoing investigation until it concludes.

“Moving forward, the chamber will do everything necessary to ensure that we provide the level of service and transparency that the Tahlequah community expects and deserves.”

The OSBI has suggested its probe could take several months. Its final report will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office.

According to letters obtained by the Daily Press, accusations were made to Tourism Council board members that the medical and dental insurance for Tourism Director Kate Kelly had been allowed to lapse. The allegations spurred city officials to request audits of the chamber and tourism council, and led to the chamber requesting a criminal investigation into potential embezzlement of funds.

Kelly is on paid administrative leave and has declined comment.

Since news of the possible mismanagement of funds broke, a number of chamber members have emailed or called the Daily Press, expressing concern about their annual dues and proceeds from the city’s hotel-motel tax, which is reportedly a key area of scrutiny for the OSBI. Several chamber members have suggested the chamber board, or at least the executive committee, should resign.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

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