Braman elects James Lunn as Mayor in Sandbek's wake
The Braman Board of Trustees has appointed 3rd Ward Trustee James Lunn to the office of mayor following the August 9 resignation of former mayor and 1st Ward Trustee Marvin Allen Sandbek.
In a special meeting held Thursday night, the board voted unanimously to accept Sandbek’s resignation and give Lunn the town’s top job. Both Lunn and 2nd Ward Trustee Darlene Johns acknowledged the progress Sandbek made for the town during his short tenure, which began in mid-April.
Trustees also voted to name Braman resident Jerri Bergman to the 1st Ward trustee’s seat. Both she and Lunn took office yesterday, August 20.
Under Braman’s township form of government, the office of mayor is not an elected one. The three-person board picks one of its trustees to double as mayor.
Neither Lunn nor Bergman could be reached for comment as of press time.
WHY SANDBEK RESIGNED
Sandbek wrote in a resignation letter to the people of Braman that his decision to resign was “painfully difficult” to make, but he said that he did so in order to protect his health and spend more time with his family.
On average, Sandbek said he worked eight to 10 hours each day – including weekends – to perform the duties of his office. That workload – combined with the “numerous criticisms” of “patrons, citizens, and those individuals who simply 'have an axe to grind'” – was more than Sandbek could handle, he wrote.
“Colleagues in municipal government across Oklahoma warned me about disgruntled citizens, complaints, criticisms, phone calls at all hours of the day and night, and infrastructure failures at the most inopportune times. Quite honestly, I had no idea how inconsiderate and downright 'nasty' some people can be! It seems that rumor and innuendo [have] more credibility in some circles than facts and truth!” Sandbek said.
After winning the trustee's office in April, Sandbek was appointed to the office of mayor during a heated April meeting. In that meeting, the board voted three different times for two different people to become the town's mayor. The contest for the town's top job was between Sandbek and Lunn, who had just won his reelection bid. The first two votes – which would have given the job to Lunn – were thrown out because they were not made in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, the meeting guidelines used by governing bodies.
WILL SANDBEK’S WORK CONTINUE?
Sandbek once said that the financial situation he found in Braman was “grim.” But during his tenure, he wrote in his resignation letter, things began to turn around.
“When I started working for you, we had less than $2,000 in the general fund, and four of your certificates of deposit (more than $75,000) had been cashed in during the past two and a half years,” Sandbek wrote. “Operating expenses were out of control, with more than $100,000 per year (over 30% of the annual budget) being spent on pay and benefits for two employees. Our municipal budget was in disarray. Corrections had to be made quickly.”
With the help of Blackwell City Manager Janet Smith, Sandbek was able to begin sorting through what he called a “case of very poor fiscal management” by the city's administrators. In his letter, he stated that “operational control and fiscal management” had been restored to Braman thanks, in part, to “selfless servants” who performed work for the town – which had previously been done by paid employees – at no cost.
In June, the board – at Sandbek's urging – voted to hire local CPA Kimberlye R. Mayer to conduct a full audit of the town's 2017 – 2018 financial records. That audit was nearly a year overdue, and trustees will still have to complete an audit of the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year within the coming months.
But in Sandbek’s absence, whether that work will continue remains to be seen.
“Marv had more determination and drive to make Braman better than anyone else. In his absence, that cause will suffer,” Smith said. “Someone will have to step up, but I don't know who that will be.”
Please support the Blackwell Journal-Tribune by subscribing today!