By KEN MILAM
LeFlore County commissioners declined again Monday to call for a special election to allow Sunday liquor sales, telling a packed room of mostly supporters they should pursue the issue through an initiative petition.
Supporters led by Northside Liquor store owner Pat Gillham had asked the commissioners to call for a special election to allow sales of hard liquor on Sundays by retail spirits license holders in LeFlore County. Currently liquor stores may not open on Sundays, although other retailers like Walmart, grocery and convenience stores may sell beer and wine seven days a week.
Gillham said Walmart is lobbying for a statewide election to allow liquor sales by those retailers, which already are open on Sundays.
Gillham said she and other liquor store owners want an opportunity to compete with the other retailers.
Dirk Van Den of the state Liquor Retailers Association attended the meeting and said Walmart is angling to limit competition from the smaller, mostly family-owned liquor stores.
Commissioner Jamie Oliver made the motion encouraging supporters to take the initiative petition approach. He said the petition would require 1,821 valid signatures – 15 percent of the votes cast in the county during the last general election – to call the election. Commissioner Vallard Campbell seconded the motion, saying it was more fair than asking commissioners to call the election. Commissioner Chairman Cody Covey voted against the motion, saying he did not want to be associated with the issue, which could result in more drunk driving accidents and possible fatalities.
Commissioners said they would consult with the district attorney about the issue and let supporters know what to do next.
The original proposal had been tabled last week after a motion by Campbell to call the election died for lack of a second and without comment from the other commissioners.
About 20 people attended the meeting Monday and a show of hands indicated almost all of them were there because of the liquor issue. The crowd included members of the public and several liquor store owners and employees.
No one spoke against the issue.
In other business, commissioners accepted Billy Thompson’s resignation from the county Fair Board. It was the latest of several resignations from the board in recent months.
Dewade Shatswell was reappointed to the county Solid Waste Board and Kellie Christenberry was named first deputy to the county treasurers’ office, replacing Sherri Smith, who retired last month.
A $600 appropriation was transferred from a budgeted account to a travel account in the sheriff’s office.