The Norman Transcript

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October 25, 2012

County won’t budge, IRS document being withheld

NORMAN — Cleveland County officials are continuing to fight the release of documents they have received from the Internal Revenue Service that question construction costs for the new $52 million county jail.

Yet, the IRS says that a “tax entity” could release such documents if it so desired, although the IRS is prohibited from making those records public.

County officials confirmed that earlier this month, the IRS sent county commissioners two items called “Information Document Requests.”  

The IRS had questions about the bond issue for the jail approved by voters in 2008. Actual cost of construction was $24 million.

The IRS wanted to know whether the “amount of issuance was appropriate at $52 million,” said Carol Dillingham, assistant district attorney assigned to the case.

The IRS also has been concerned with how the bond proceeds were being spent, Dillingham said.

“They are privileged as defined in the act and will remain privileged until resolution of the continuing audit process, including appellate procedures, if necessary,” Dillingham wrote in an email message.

David Stell, IRS spokesman for Arkansas and Oklahoma, said he is prohibited from discussing a specific case, but a “taxpayer” that receives information from the IRS has the option of releasing that information to the public.

Based on federal law, “if a taxpayer wants to share information, that is entirely up to the taxpayer,” Stell said.

The IRS considers an individual taxpayer and a “tax entity” to be the same. Tax entities would include trusts and other entities of the state of Oklahoma and counties, like Cleveland County. The Cleveland County Justice Authority administers the business relating to the new jail.

Stell’s comments were made without his knowledge of the Cleveland County taxpayer’s case.

Dillingham cites a provision in an Oklahoma statute that says documents involved in an audit can be kept from the public “in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another another party.”

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