City mayor pledges to work for free after critical state audit

An Oklahoma mayor accused of pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds outside the scope of his elected office said he will work for free beginning immediately.

Cordell Mayor Alex Damon said he was surprised by some of the accusations outlined in an audit released Thursday by the state auditor and inspector's office, but he said he will cooperate should the district attorney in Washita County decide to investigate.

The audit accused Damon of collecting more than $260,000 in salary above and beyond what was authorized by city ordinance, of collecting double and sometimes triple reimbursement for travel and fuel expenses, and of collecting travel reimbursements while touring with his musical ensemble, the Damon Jackson Band.

"In the interim, while these investigations are ongoing or until these matters are resolved, I will continue to perform the duties necessary to maintain the operations of the city," he wrote in a news release emailed to The Oklahoman on Friday. "However, I will voluntarily decline any compensation for positions I hold. My goal will remain to ensure the well-being and safety of the citizens of my community."

Damon was first elected mayor of Cordell in 2004 and lost a bid to replace Ryan McMullen as Oklahoma House District 55 representative in 2009.

Cordell is located in Washita County, about 100 miles west of Oklahoma City.

The audit was requested by the city council in 2012 after Cordell residents voiced concerns over payments to Damon, as well as perceived abuse of power by him and other current and former city employees and elected officials.

The audit revealed Damon collected as much as $30,500 between 2007 and 2012 by working as "acting" city manager for Cordell in addition to collecting his mayoral salary. He also received as much as $230,000 in his capacity as general manager of the city's utilities trust during the same time.

State law prohibits an elected official from collecting a salary from a government position beyond the scope of his elected duties.

According to auditors, Damon recommended the council hire him as acting city administrator, cast the tiebreaking vote to terminate the search for a new city administrator, and then resigned from the utilities trust so he could be rehired as its general manager.

Auditors also estimated he collected $32,000 in taxable travel reimbursements between 2007 and 2011 that were never reported to state or federal tax agencies and said he paid himself $10,400 in grant funds after designating himself the city's grant coordinator.

Auditors noted in several instances that Damon provided misleading information and documentation during the course of the investigation.

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Copyright 2013 - The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

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