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Payments to Cordell mayor may have violated law, Oklahoma state auditor says

Cordell Mayor Alex Damon collected more than $260,000 in pay beyond his salary as mayor and may have used the city's gas card to fund concert outings for his personal band, according to an Oklahoma state audit released Thursday.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Modified: January 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013

— The mayor of Cordell appears to have used his elected position to line his pockets with public funds, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Alex Damon collected more than $260,000 in salary above and beyond what was authorized by city ordinance and was doubly reimbursed for travel expenses over several years' time, according to the investigative audit conducted by the state Auditor and Inspector's Office.

The audit was requested by the city council in 2012 after Cordell residents voiced concern over payments to Damon, as well as perceived abuse of power and allegations of grant mismanagement by several other city employees.

Damon was not available for comment on Thursday.

Damon, who was first elected mayor in 2004, lost a bid to replace Ryan McMullen as Oklahoma House District 55 representative in 2009.

Among the audit findings:

• Damon received as much as $30,500 in addition to his mayoral salary by working as “acting” city administrator from 2007 to 2012.

• Damon received as much as $230,000 in compensation for being employed as general manager of the city's utilities trust during the same time.

• In addition to a $300 monthly travel allowance, Damon was paid an estimated $4,365 in additional fuel reimbursements on the city's gas card, despite no documentation.

• Four former city employees — including the former city clerk, treasurer, police chief and assistant police chief — and a current police dispatcher accumulated thousands of dollars in unpaid utility bills with neither penalty nor disconnection, despite city ordinances designed to prevent such activity.

• The private business that operates and manages the local theater accrued more than $25,000 in unpaid utility bills, in what amounted to an “undocumented perpetual loan,” the audit states.

According to auditors, Damon recommended the council hire him as acting city administrator and then resigned from the utilities trust so he could be rehired as its general manager.

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