Decades of ordinances not in compliance

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

RATTAN, Okla. --A small Oklahoma town is in a mountain of paperwork, trying to put decades of city ordinances into compliance with state law. Rattan city officials say they will have to vote about 800 pages worth of ordinances into effect and file them with Pushmataha County.

The ordinances date back all the way from when the city was incorporated in 1977.

City leaders in Rattan say creating ordinances is routine. Common ordinances are for zoning, fines, and elections. Recently they realized there's more to it than just voting it in.
"The ordinances are not good without adopting the codes that go along with them," says Councilman Webster Brand.

Last week the council discovered their predecessors, dating back to 19-77, failed to file ordinances with the county clerk and the county law library. State statute, Title 11 requires municipalities to do so.

For example, the law means a city could not charge more than fifty dollars for a traffic ticket plus court costs. They city could even be required to refund tickets for higher amounts.

City leaders say this could cost them an untold amount of money, so they are furiously working to fix the problem.

"It's not the city, it's the people I'm working for, I’m working for the people to get them in compliance and make sure they are in compliance," Brand says.

They have filed a few ordinances already, starting with those from 1977 and slowly working to today.

The reason for the mix-up depends on who you ask. Some people we spoke to say some county clerks in small towns do not know about state statutes. Decades can pass without anyone taking action.

Brand says they are currently compiling a list of ordinances to file properly. City leaders hope to do that as soon as possible. They expect the list to be hundreds of pages thick, taking months to complete.

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