Edmond referendum petitions
Former Edmond mayoral candidate Brian Shellem filed three referendum petitions with the city Tuesday, April 11, 2023, opening the possibility for citizens to decide the fate of those projects with ballot questions. (Screenshot)

(Update: The city center complex, parking garage and joint YMCA and library projects will not be decided by ballot questions because the required number of signatures were not submitted to the Edmond City Clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Friday, May 12. The following article remains in its original form.)

Recent mayoral candidate Brian Shellem filed three referendum petitions with the Edmond City Clerk’s office today, which could create ballot questions regarding the slated city center complex, its accompanying parking garage and the joint YMCA and library project. Shellem and others supporting the referenda will have until May 12 to gather more than 3,000 signatures from registered Edmond voters for each of the petitions.

Shellem, whom Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis defeated in last week’s municipal election, said he filed the three petitions with the intent to give Edmond citizens a choice on the projects.

“We do have a very large budget, but they are not prioritizing the needs of the citizens,” Shellem said. “The citizens keep saying fix our roads and our traffic issues.”

Shellem said he supports the YMCA and the Metropolitan Library System proposal but does not support the projects at the estimated price.

“This is a lot of money, and they seem to be ignoring the will of the people,” Shellem said.

Don Whitney, another Edmond resident, is listed as the second proponent on each of the petitions.

“Let the people decide where their money is going to be spent,” Shellem said. “If the people so desire this, let it be. But if they don’t, let their voices be heard.”

Each petition requires 3,116 signatures by May 12

Then-mayoral candidate Brian Shellem stands outside of an Edmond Public Schools Board candidate forum Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at Sequoyah Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Tres Savage)

Oklahoma state statute requires that referendum petitions be signed by a number of registered voters equal to 25 percent of the total votes cast in a municipality’s most recent general election.

In Edmond’s 2023 municipal election, held April 4, 12,462 votes were cast. As such, each referendum petition filed Tuesday would require 3,116 valid signatures to become a ballot question for city voters.

To pay for the three projects, the Edmond City Council unanimously approved three separate loan proposals at its March 13 council meeting. The proposals — $37.1 million for the YMCA/library project, $34 million for the city hall and municipal court and $10 million for the parking garage — amount to a combined $81.1 million in loans.

However, for the city’s joint effort with the YMCA and the Metro Library System, the city will pay the $37.1 million total up front, and the YMCA will reimburse the city for $11.8 million.

For the joint YMCA and library project, the city has already paid $4 million for the land acquisition next to Henderson Hills Baptist Church and $3.1 million for design services.

The maturity date on the city’s loans will be March 1, 2038, which gives the city 15 years to pay back those loans with interest.

“Signed copies of a petition invoking a referendum upon any ordinance or resolution shall be submitted to the clerk within sixty (60) days after the passage of the ordinance or resolution,” according to state statute.

That means 3,116 valid signatures must be submitted to the city clerk’s office by May 12, which would be 60 days from the Edmond City Council’s approval of each financial proposal.

As the Edmond City Council has bid and approved each of those financial proposals with various banks, it is unclear what legal ramifications, if any, could come from the referendum petitions.

Edmond City Attorney Stephen Murdock said his office will be looking at the petitions over “the next several days.”

“We’re reviewing to see what the appropriate steps are under the law, and we’ll proceed accordingly,” Murdock said.

This is not Shellem’s first time challenging government actions in Edmond. In 2021, he and other parents obtained an injunction from an Oklahoma County District Court Judge barring Edmond Public Schools from enforcing certain COVID-19 quarantine protocols. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shellem and the other parents in March.

Shellem lost the April 4 election to Davis, who received 52 percent of the vote against Shellem’s 48 percent.

Read Brian Shellem’s referendum petitions

The referendum petitions filed today are linked below: