BOISE CITY — The Cimarron County treasurer is catching criticism from Boise City school attorneys for transferring $27,302 from a school account to a county account without approval from the Boise City School Board.
Treasurer Jenny Richardson was directed to make the transfer by District Attorney James M. Boring.
“To me, it's not right,” said Ira Harris, superintendent of Boise City schools.
School board members feel like they are being “bullied,” he said.
Attorneys for the school district contend the treasurer violated the law.
“Ms. Richardson's actions constitute a conversion of property for which Ms. Richardson may be held both civilly and criminally liable,” an attorney for the Tulsa law firm Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold stated in a May 9 letter.
The district attorney who directed the transfer has contended the $27,302 was owed by the school district as its share of money paid to an outside law firm for representing the interests of the county and two school districts in a tax protest.
Boring previously had asked the school district to pay the money, but the school board refused after two law firms advised board members it would be illegal for them to pay.
Board members were cautioned they could personally be held financially responsible if they authorized payment, Harris said.
The current dispute arose out of a complicated property tax protest filed by JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding LLC.
The county retained the legal services of Tisdal & O'Hara Law Firm of Clinton to fight the tax protest because of the complexity of the case.
The feedlot operator eventually dropped the protest and paid more than $368,000 in taxes, but by that time the Tisdal firm was owed $39,995 in legal fees.
The district attorney directed the Boise City School District, Keyes School District and Cimarron County to split the fee based on the proportion of the protested taxes they were to receive.
The Boise City School District was to receive $251,450 so it was asked to pay $27,302. The Keyes School District was asked to pay $3,963. The county entities were asked to pay $8,729.
The Keyes School District paid, but the Boise City School District refused, citing the advice of The Center for Education Law and the Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold law firm.
“There is no lawful way the District can pay for a share of the attorney's fees,” an attorney with The Center for Education Law said in a July letter to Boring.
“We are informed and understand (the) District was not a party to the tax protest, nor is it a party to any agreement for the payment of attorney's fees related to the protest,” the letter said. “If the District were to authorize payment for a portion of the attorney's fees now, on an agreement it never was a party to, and for which funds were never encumbered, such payment would violate the Oklahoma Constitution.”
Harris, the Boise City School District's superintendent, said he believes his school board may sue to recover the money transferred by the treasurer plus attorneys' fees.