(Correction: This article was updated at 8:55 p.m. Saturday, April 3, to correct information related to court cases referenced below. NonDoc regrets the error.)
The Norman City Council Ward 3 runoff election on April 6 will be the final act — for this election cycle, at least — of the drama that has engulfed the council over the past year.
Incumbent Alison Petrone is running for her second term against Kelly Lynn, who has been endorsed by Unite Norman, a group that attempted to recall Petrone and other City Council members, including Mayor Breea Clark, over a decision to redirect more than $850,000 of a planned increase for the Norman Police Department budget to other city services.
In the Feb. 9 primary, Petrone faced both Lynn and Sam Talley, who was also involved with Unite Norman. Petrone received 40 percent of the vote in the primary while Lynn earned 30 percent and Talley got 29 percent.
Division over Unite Norman
In many ways, the running of the City Council itself is a central issue in this election.
Lynn, who did not respond to attempts to contact him for this article, says on his campaign website that he is running to “bring common sense back to the Norman City Council.”
“Then I saw the total mess in our city government, and I felt really ashamed,” he writes on his website. “I just hadn’t paid attention to local government. I wasn’t the only one, and now we’ve got the results to show for it.”
Lynn is a lawyer and a member of the Oklahoma National Guard who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2017. He has received an endorsement from the Norman chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and, according to his campaign Facebook page, from Barry Switzer.
Petrone did respond to a request for interview and said she believes Lynn’s broad criticisms of the council distract from the real issues affecting the city.
“We don’t hear much about what my opponent wants to do in Norman. It’s more just let’s just take every mailing opportunity to talk bad about me,” Petrone said. “If that’s how he wants to spend his money and his time campaigning — and it may work, I have no idea — but if that’s his choice, it’s certainly not the way that, again, I think is appropriate to be modeling dialogue in Norman. To each their own.”
She added that while residents sometimes oppose city council decisions, it’s important to have respectful dialogue.
“We don’t always have to agree in this community, but we are neighbors, and it is important that we continue a level of decorum and appreciation for one another,” Petrone said. “I think that leading by example is a lot of it.”
Petrone, who is also an attorney, mentions health care, transportation, improving accessibility and building a senior center as priorities on her campaign website.
Norman voters will have another decision to make on their April 6 ballots: whether to approve a $27 million bond to maintain city streets. Petrone said she supports the measure and that she’s found the bond popular throughout the community as she’s knocked on doors.
“People seem to still definitely support that renewal,” Petrone said. “That would be the first one that people are talking about.”
Questions about a drug arrest
In June 1997, Lynn was arrested twice in LeFlore County, once for allegedly attempting to get change for two $1 bills that had been altered to look like $10 bills. The resultant charge was eventually dismissed in 1998. The second arrest occurred after a traffic stop when an officer found a bag containing a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.
Critics of Lynn publicized an OSBI document showing that he had accepted a plea deal regarding the felony charge. But after The Norman Transcript reported about that document, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation updated its records to reflect that Lynn had pleaded not guilty, that the charge had been dismissed and that Lynn’s record had been expunged.
Lynn told The Transcript in January that the case had been dismissed and expunged from his record and that his attorney had been disbarred soon after. The case does not appear in the county clerk’s digital records, the Transcript reported.
He told the Transcript that, on the night of the crime, he was with friends who were carrying methamphetamines.
“There were no drugs on me,” Lynn said. “I was driving. I did not know that they had it on them.”
However, a 1999 affidavit from Mark Kannady, the Poteau Police Department officer who pulled Lynn over, does not mention any others being present. The affidavit, apparently filed when the agency was seeking a court order to retain the cash Lynn was carrying the night of his arrest, says the drugs were discovered when Lynn got out of a car and the officer “saw a plastic baggie fall from his lap area.” The officer asked Lynn what he had dropped and Lynn, according to the affidavit, “said nothing and looked at the ground at the baggie and kicked it under his car.”
It is unclear whether Lynn was alone, but Kannady stated that the small plastic bag that fell on the ground from Lynn’s lap area tested positive for methamphetamines.
When The Transcript asked if Lynn had originally pleaded guilty or no contest, Lynn said he did not remember, nor did he know why his attorney had either resigned or had been disbarred. He did not believe that he was obligated to disclose something on his candidate declaration form if the incident had been expunged.
“All I know is that it was dismissed, and I 100 percent feel like I answered honestly on that form,” Lynn told The Transcript.