Council appoints three to Constantine board; several resign

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska City Council last Thursday evening voted to add three persons to the Constantine Arts Council board, but first it heard objections to the move.

No one objected to any specific person proposed for addition to the board. The objections concerned adding people when there has been an understood objective of reducing the size of the Constantine board, and when two of the three new persons would be filling slots that were already scheduled to be eliminated in 40 days (at the end of 2020).

The City Council voted in late February to reconstitute the Constantine board by appointing a full slate of 18 members. The members were drawn from two distinct interest groups -- one group composed of theater volunteers who have managed the Constantine Theater for a number of years, and another composed of persons who have made it plain they think the building should be used a great deal more and should become a source of greater revenue. Of those 18 members, 15 remained active as of last week.

In the roughly nine months since the reconstitution of the board, little has apparently been accomplished, with the two factions still of differing minds about matters as fundamental as how to define a quorum of the board for business purposes, and whether the board is subject to the state Open Meetings law.

Mayor Roger Taylor commented Thursday evening that he had attended a Constantine board meeting and he thought at least some of members behaved like "a bunch of little 2-year-olds." He said that he had been embarrassed. The city of Pawhuska now owns the theater building and pays utilities for it.

In the Council meeting Thursday, the faction of newer members supported the addition of three more members, while the faction of older members resisted the appointments.

Jerry Mosley, a member of the newer group, said the new board members were needed, to ensure a quorum would be available to do business.

Alma Hull, a member of the older group, said the newer group wanted the additional members so it would have a majority.

Lori Highfill, a member of the older group, described for the City Council how attempts to take action to ratify a proposed amendment to the Constantine board's trust indenture had been blocked. The amendment called for a reduction in the size of the Constantine board from 18 members to 9. Highfill said Mosley had voiced a desire to move straight from 18 members to 5.

"We need to get to five people," Mosley told the Council. He said there are five members of the City Council, and five or fewer members of other local governing boards. "We need a manager who operates the theater on a day-to-day basis."

The Council voted 4-1, with Councilor Steve Tolson voting "no" in each instance, to appoint Rachel Mosley, Lavendar Carroll and Dr. Cameron Rumsey to the Constantine board. Councilwoman Jourdan Foran, in her last official act before her resignation from the Council was accepted, led the way in seeking votes to have the three new members appointed.

Alma Hull and Lori Highfill both resigned by the time the Council meeting broke up. Brian Jeffers, the president of the Constantine board, and his wife, Terrie, have also resigned. The Journal-Capital is aware of at least those four resignations, all of them from the older group of members.

"We are very sad, but realize the city must want to go in a different direction," Terrie Jeffers said in an email.