Mayor Nathan Bates’ business partner says, unlike the mayor, he has not been directed to be at the Payne County Courthouse on Monday when a judge opens two indictments a multicounty grand jury handed down this week.
Rasoul Ezzat-Ahmadi, 28, of Jenks, said he doesn’t know if he’s been indicted, but added, “Nate was told to be at the courthouse and I wasn’t.”
Bates said Friday his name is on one of two sealed indictments coming out of this week’s multicounty grand jury session in Oklahoma City.
“My (public defender) called me (Thursday) and let me know I was required to be at the courthouse by 2 Monday or they would send the sheriff for me,” Stillwater’s mayor said.
Bates, 28, said he doesn’t know what he is charged with or who else is charged.
“At this point, it’s kind of a guessing game,” he said.
Bates and Ezzat-Ahmadi testified before the grand jury this week. The panel heard testimony from 13 witnesses regarding a grant Bates and Ezzat-Ahmadi’s company Icon Properties, LLC, sought and obtained through Oklahoma State University’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development.
Bates had voted with the rest of the City Council a few months before to provide funding through the Chamber of Commerce for the E-Basic grant program from which Bates’ company subsequently was awarded a $5,000 grant, the maximum award available. OSU said the money Bates received was not city money. The grant program - for students and others with startup business ideas - has several partners.
Bates’ grant proposal does refer to city money as potential additional funding for his $1 million loft apartment project, which targets a building his company does not own.
Says Bates’ company’s request for acceptance into the E-basic program:
“This building has numerous incentives in place to help us fund our goal starting with the city offering a $5,000 grant program to businesses that operate in the BID area. The grant would be applied towards fixing the facade of the building and helping to restore some of the outer wall. In addition to the city’s financial incentive opportunity the building falls under the heading of an historic building which has various tax incentives attached at the state and local level.”
Glenn Freedman, who is vice president of research and programs at OSU’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development that gave Bates the money, referred NewsPress inquiries Friday to a Stillwater attorney and to OSU spokesman Gary Shutt. Shutt said he didn’t know whether any OSU employees have been indicted or been called to be in court Monday. The attorney Freedman named did not return a phone call.
Freedman notified Bates that he had missed a June deadine for accounting for how the money was spent and Bates has paid back $1,900 and provided documentation for $600. Shutt said OSU is reviewing payment documents regarding Gose & Associates, which Bates has identified as his engineer on the project.
Oklahoma County public defender Bob Ravitz represented Bates and Ezzat-Ahmadi through grand jury proceedings in Oklahoma City this week.
Grand jury statutes allow a judge to appoint an attorney for anyone who will be a witness before a grand jury, Ravitz said.
Ravitz said he represented them only during the grand jury proceedings, but said when he’s informed of something related to his representation before a grand jury, he’s allowed to convey that information to a former client.
Ravitz said he couldn’t confirm if Bates had been indicted.
Ezzat-Ahmadi told the NewsPress on Friday that he might go to court Monday for moral support if Bates asks him to go.
District Judge Donald Worthington will open two sealed indictments at 2 p.m. Monday in his courtroom.
Two people have been indicted on one count each, Attorney General spokesman Charlie Price said.
The mayor has denied any wrongdoing. Bates said he believes one of his opponents is trying to implicate him.
Last spring, a year after being elected by 27 votes, Bates survived an election by four votes after petitioners gathered enough signatures to put his position before voters for possible recall.
“Someone had to take this to (District Attorney) Rob Hudson,” he said of the grant investigation.
Bates said he feels it would have been more appropriate for Hudson to discuss the allegations with him before asking the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter. Hudson requested the investigation in May.
Ezzat-Ahmadi said Bates’ opponents are trying to tarnish his image, and a trial in the case would be “an opportunity to clear some things up ... things that aren’t bad for Nate but might be bad for the people that brought this against him.”
He declined to give specifics.
“We’re all just kind of waiting to see what Monday brings,” Ezzat-Ahmadi said.