The Norman Transcript

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November 21, 2012

County jail trust releases 8-month-old IRS audit letter

NORMAN —  The Internal Revenue Service’s official audit notice for Cleveland County’s $52 million jail sales tax bonds came eight months before county officials publicly acknowledged the examination, records showed Tuesday.

County officials, in response to an open records request from The Transcript, on Tuesday released the original IRS notice dated Feb. 16, 2012.  It was mailed to District 3 County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan, chairman of the Cleveland County Justice Authority, and was signed by Kurt J. Ochsner, an IRS agent with the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division in Bismark, N.D. 

“We have selected the debt issuance named above for examination,” Ochsner wrote. “The Internal Revenue Service routinely examines municipal debt issuances to determine compliance with federal tax requirements.”

Ochsner came to Norman in October to visit the jail, review documents and interview county officials.

The contract for construction of the jail that opened in January amounted to $24 million. The Justice Authority has hired Washington, D.C. attorney Brad Waterman to act on its behalf before the IRS. On Monday, the Justice Authority approved a $4,280 invoice for Waterman’s work from July 1 to Aug. 31.

  On Monday, Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Jim Robertson denied a request by a reporter to obtain a copy of an audit of the Cleveland County Justice Authority which issued the bonds. Just minutes before, the audit had been approved by the commissioners in their weekly public meeting.

   However, Robertson insisted that an Open Records request would have to be filed before the audit would be released. Sullivan had asked for Robertson’s advice on releasing the document.  When asked why the release was being stalled, Robertson walked away from the reporter.

Sullivan relented after the meeting Monday and had assistants print a copy of the public document.

Earlier, the assistant district attorney advised Sullivan not to talk publicly about the jail contract because the IRS inquiry is still pending. County officials maintain the audit is routine and will show nothing unusual about the bond issue.

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