Jul 28, 2023

State auditor objects to motor grader payment

The Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector's office, in a report posted on its website, says that former Osage County District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones violated state law when he paid off lease-purchase agreements on eight motor graders before leaving office. The total amount of the payment was $386,463.

The Auditor and Inspector's office issued the report May 8. The Osage County Board of County Commissioners acknowledged receipt of the report in its May 15 meeting.

The Auditor and Inspector's office cited Title 21, Section 333B of the Oklahoma Statutes, as follows: "Any county commissioner who fails to file for re-election or is defeated in any primary or general election or by any other manner it is impossible for the commissioner to serve another term in office, shall not acquire, purchase, contract for or dispose of any machinery or equipment, or expend or approve for expenditure any monies for any purpose other than normal or routine operating expenditures except as provided in this section. It shall be the mandatory duty of the commissioner to execute payment and to pay all outstanding obligations of the county incurred by the commissioner, or on behalf of the commissioner by the board of county commissioners, prior to the expiration of the term of office of the commissioner. However, in the case of lease-purchase contracts, rental, lease or other payments extending beyond the term of office of the commissioner it shall be the mandatory duty of the commissioner to execute and to make such payments current as of the date of expiration of the term of office of the commissioner. The commissioner shall be liable both personally and on the official bond of the commissioner for any violation of the mandatory duties herein imposed." The accusation the Auditor and Inspector's office is making in the report is that Jones paid off lease-purchase obligations beyond the end of his term of service.

According to the audit report, Jones responded as follows: "I have been paying off equipment for 4 years. I have been trying to pay off equipment and upgrade equipment. My goal was to pay all the equipment off and stay above the 50% money on-hand and when I made sure District 1 had $451,000, District 1 paid the loans off leaving over $600,000 on-hand. I talked to the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) about this. It was not unusual. I have a 4-year history of paying off equipment."

The Auditor and Inspector's office said in its report that "policies and procedures have not been adequately designed and implemented to ensure outgoing officials expend county funds in accordance with state statutes." Its recommendation was that "management implement internal controls to ensure compliance with state statutes giving the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) a better understanding of what is allowed to be expended by county officials that will not succeed themselves."

Jones, who served a four-year term as District 1 commissioner from 2019 through 2022, requested the turnover audit of his office and operations. While still in office, he denied that he had the intent of spending down the amount of money available to the person succeeding him. He told the Journal-Capital last week that he did not intentionally violate any law, and that he regularly sought legal advice about his actions.

District Attorney Mike Fisher said that he could not handle any legal follow-up on the audit report, due to the fact Jones was his client. Any follow-up would have to be handled by the state Attorney General's office, Fisher said.

Photo Caption: Randall Jones