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Shawnee, chamber of commerce, reconcile differences

Nearly five months after unofficially cutting ties and filing lawsuits against each other, the city of Shawnee and the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce have reconciled. The city is about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City.
by Andrew Knittle Published: January 7, 2013

Lawsuits to be dropped

Now that the new contract has been approved by the Shawnee City Commission, the lawsuit filed by the chamber will be dropped. A cross-petition, filed by the city days after the chamber's lawsuit, also will be dismissed.

Attorneys for the chamber filed a lawsuit in August after city officials attempted to sever ties between the two entities. At the time, the contract between the city and the chamber had been in place — with no issues — since 1994.

The lawsuit sought more time to untangle the complex working relationship between the chamber and the city. The chamber's attorney, Mike Clover, said the abruptness of the city's actions at the time were the impetus of the lawsuit.

“We think a reasonable notice to terminate this would be six months ... 90 days ... whatever the judge feels is appropriate with all the facts and everything else,” Clover said in August. “We never did once think that there would be a contract that would be around forever.”

Attorneys for the city fired back the next week, accusing the chamber of misusing taxpayer funds and questioning a $500,000 land purchase made more than three years ago.

The August 2009 land deal between the chamber and Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative Inc. is the focus of the city's countersuit.

Shawnee city attorney Mary Ann Karns wrote that the chamber paid $500,000 for the property, which is described as just more than two acres near Harrison Avenue and Interstate 40.

“In making this purchase and the payments using the hotel tax, (the chamber) deliberately and illegally diverted funds, thus breaching the Contract by failing to spend revenues as required,” Karns wrote. “(The chamber's) name, not the City's, is on the title.”

Karns said all of the money used to make the $200,000 down payment and monthly mortgage payments were funds raised by the city's hotel surcharge fee.

The city's countersuit states that using “taxpayer funds to purchase an asset for itself” is reason enough for the contract between the chamber and city to be terminated.

“Plaintiff's position is illegal,” Karns wrote. “The use of public money to purchase property for another is illegal.”

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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