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June 18, 2014

OSBI joins chamber probe

(Continued)

TAHLEQUAH —

The tourism board also asked the Chamber board to turn over the Tourism Council’s bank statements “immediately.”

The letters to Young and Medearis were all dated June 5.

The Chamber of Commerce board, meanwhile, is set to meet at 5 p.m. today to appoint an interim Chamber director; to discuss the establishment of new bank accounts; and to consider extending current board terms until July 1, 2015.

During a meeting Monday evening, members of the Tahlequah City Council chose to continue sending hotel-motel tax funds to the Chamber, but agreed they could reconsider and suspend the money if details surface that show the funds could be “in jeopardy,” as Medearis explained.

“If the city is in possession of confirmable information that would indicate those [tax dollars] are in jeopardy of being misused or improperly used, I think the city would have an obligation to technically breach the contract that it has with the Chamber,” Medearis said.

Medearis and Mayor Jason Nichols both said they had received no information as of Monday confirming misappropriation of funds related to the tax.

Anita Thompson, a Chamber of Commerce board vice president, addressed the council and confirmed board members met with local and state authorities Monday.

“They are currently investigating what we have going on there at the Chamber,” said Thompson. “We’re moving forward as a board, though. To be able to do that, it is critical for us to have, to continue to receive, the dollars from the tourism tax. In order to move forward, we’ve worked to develop a plan, and some of the things that are critical to that are making sure we have someone appointed as an interim director quickly, and making sure we review some of our policies and procedures to make sure we are able to continue operations going forward. As you know, it’s the height of tourism season here in Tahlequah, and we have to make sure that there continues to be someone to answer the phone, to answer questions, to direct our local visitors as they come in.”

Nichols, an ex-officio member of the Chamber board, told councilors he had refrained from attending Chamber meetings or engaging in conversations about the allegations.

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