Tahlequah’s former tourism director, who was fired by the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors last month, has been denied an unemployment request due to an apparent lack of payments.

According to documents obtained by the Daily Press, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission turned down Kate Kelly’s request for unemployment, deeming it “not monetarily eligible.”

The OESC documents show “taxable wages” are not on record for the quarters ending in March, June, September and December 2013.

According to the OESC, Kelly had until last week to file an appeal.

“Unemployment insurance” is to be paid by employers in the form of unemployment taxes, according to the OESC.

Bank records from the chamber’s Bank of America account also show a potential lack of employment-tax payments in recent years – and sources close to the probe confirm tax issues are part of the ongoing investigation.

Statements from 2006 show debits were made to the Oklahoma Tax Commission for “tax payments” each month. Amounts were typically more than $250 per month.

Beyond 2006, payments to the OTC often appear sporadic. Some months, payments to the state are not listed in bank records; and in others, multiple payments were made in a month’s time.

No payments were recorded to the Oklahoma Tax Commission in 2011, 2012, 2013, or in the first half of 2014, according to the chamber bank records.

The Daily Press emailed chamber President Steve Turner and asked whether board members are concerned about a potential lack of payroll-tax payments, but Turner cited the ongoing criminal embezzlement investigation in his response.

“All chamber financial matters are part of the criminal investigation being conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the State Auditor and Inspector. At the point in the investigation they are prepared to release information that will not impede prosecution in a potential criminal case, they will provide it to the public,” Turner wrote in his emailed reply, which was also copied to attorney Angela Jones. “In the meantime, we should trust the legal system to do its work without undue interference and speculation. As I have stated before, this is a complex criminal investigation that could take months to complete.”

According to the chamber’s bank records, the last payment specifically marked as a debit to the Oklahoma Tax Commission was made in November 2010, when five separate payments were made in amounts ranging from $198 to $332.18.

Records of chamber expenses made with a check do not indicate to whom the checks were written.

Chamber bank records do not clearly indicate whether federal payroll taxes were withheld electronically in the past 8-1/2 years.


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