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After another late payment, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame tests county officials' patience

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TULSA, Oklahoma — After the cash-strapped Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame made a late payment last month, its yearslong pattern of tardiness is again testing the patience of some county officials.

The Tulsa-based nonprofit has a history of making late payments to cover expenses dating back to 2012, when it had to raise more than $75,000 to pay overdue debts or get booted from the Art Deco-style Union Depot building the museum leases from the county.

County Commissioner Karen Keith said the late payments have become "a headache." Commissioner John Smaligo called on the jazz hall to meet its financial obligations to taxpayers on time.

August's payment of $8,192 in downtown assessment fees came four days late, and weeks earlier, the Hall of Fame was about two weeks late in paying a $3,059 property insurance bill, chief executive officer Jason McIntosh said. He disputed the notion that the museum was in any kind of financial peril, and said it's on better financial footing than it was two years ago.

"We are 100 percent privately funded; we work hard; we've increased our educational programs," McIntosh said.

But some commissioners say the county has a responsibility to taxpayers to make sure the hall pays what it owes because voters had set aside money under a capital improvement campaign to buy and refurbish the depot building for the museum.

"They've done some really good programming, but it's been a bit of a nightmare for us," Keith said. "I would say the county's losing patience with their inability to manage the property and get their bills paid.

"They continue to pay late ... it's just a headache," Keith said.

Smaligo said the museum needs to live up to its agreement to pay what they owe on time.

"Regardless of what's happened in the past, if there are late payments in the future or possibly a check has bounced, we will give them notice and then enforce the terms of the contract," he said.

McIntosh accused some officials of airing their grievances in the media instead of talking directly with him or other board members.

"We are viable," he said. "We are in better shape than we were in, and we'll continue to get even more people in our corner."

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