AG meeting on Broken Bow cabin controversy set for November

By M. Scott Carter | The Journal Record

[ OCTOBER 20, 2009 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ] – The owners of several Broken Bow cabin leasing companies will have to wait until November to learn if they can continue to legally operate their companies, an attorney representing one of the companies said Monday.

Marc Edwards, an attorney with the Oklahoma City law firm Phillips Murrah, said he was told Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office had met once about the Broken Bow controversy and would meet again about the issue in November.

“I don’t know what the extent of the conversation was,” he said. “But it’s my understanding that the opinion committee will meet again in November.”

Edmondson’s spokesman, Charlie Price, confirmed that Edmondson’s office is still examining the issue.

“That opinion will be back in conference in mid-November,” Price wrote in an e-mail to The Journal Record. “So nothing before then.”

The opinion was requested by state Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, after officials from the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission began sending letters to cabin rental agencies in Broken Bow this summer. Those letters said the rental agencies were under a formal investigation for unlicensed real estate activities.

“This decision to open a formal investigation was based upon information … which indicates you appear to be acting as a property manager of vacation cabins you do not own,” a letter from the commission’s executive director, Anne Woody, said.

Woody’s letter said it was unlawful for an unlicensed person or entity to engage in licensable real estate activities.

“By offering properties for rent or lease that belong to others, with the intent of receiving compensation, it appears that you are involved in real estate-related activities without possessing an Oklahoma real estate license,” she wrote. Woody said the commission has the authority to fine an unlicensed person or entity for engaging in licensable activity in an amount up to $5,000 or the compensation earned, whichever is greater, for each violation.

Ellis said he requested an opinion from Edmondson to determine how the law applies. Because opinions by the attorney general carry the weight of law, a favorable ruling would solve the problem until the law was changed.

And while Edwards said he was hopeful of a positive ruling, a legislative fix to the issue is presently being developed.

State Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said Monday he had been contacted by business leaders in Broken Bow about the issue. Dorman was a co-author of Senate Bill 1312, which changed the law in 2004, adding the requirement for a real estate license.

And he said the bill wasn’t what he had originally planned.

“It was an unintended consequence,” Dorman said. “I jumped on the bill as a co-author after it included language about the military and I didn’t realize what the results would be.”

To fix the problem, he said he would file legislation next year that would say the leasing agencies were exempt from the law requiring real estate licenses.

“I’m certainly going to initiate the discussion,” he said. “The end result will probably be in someone else’s bill, but that’s one of the hazards of being in the minority.”

Dorman said neither he, nor state Sen. J. Paul Gumm – one of the bill’s Senate authors – was trying to harm cabin owners or the rental agencies.

“We certainly don’t want the cabin owners being affected in a detrimental way,” he said. “If I had known that was going to happen I would have never co-authored the bill.”