PAWHUSKA — An Osage County commissioner and a former county employee were charged with felonies Wednesday in Osage County District Court.
Kevin Buchanan, district attorney for Washington County, filed a charge of bid rigging against Kevin Paslay, 63, of Skiatook, commissioner for Osage County District 2.
Buchanan also filed two counts of embezzlement by employee against Thomas J. Teel, 51, of Sperry, a former employee of Osage County District 2.
Teel had made it known publicly that he hoped to run for the District 2 commissioner seat this year. The window to declare for county elective offices is April 8 to 10.
Warrants for the arrest of Paslay and Teel were issued Wednesday.
Paslay was out of town the first part of this week, attending a National Association of Counties meeting in Washington, D.C. When the Journal-Capital talked with him Thursday morning, he said that he had arrived back Wednesday evening from Washington and had turned himself in Thursday morning and bonded out.
“Right now, I’m in the process of meeting my attorney,” Paslay said, adding that he expected to release a statement soon.
The Journal-Capital on Thursday morning talked briefly with a woman who identified herself as Teel’s wife, and she said she would pass along a newspaper representative’s phone number to her husband.
Sheriff Eddie Virden said just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday that he thought Teel was about to turn himself in.
Agent Marty Wilson, of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said in a case affidavit regarding Paslay that the state Attorney General’s Office asked on April 24, 2019, for help looking into allegations regarding the commissioner.
“A former District 2 employee had made allegations that Paslay used county employees and equipment to haul personal items from an auction in Tulsa, Oklahoma to the District 2 County Barn in Skiatook, Oklahoma,” Wilson’s affidavit says. The Attorney General’s Office appointed Buchanan to act as special prosecutor.
During the investigation, an allegation reportedly surfaced that Paslay had arranged for a businessman to buy a vehicle at a surplus auction in Tulsa and then sell the vehicle to Osage County through a bidding process.
In his case affidavit, Wilson says Robert Atkins, owner of Rob’s Auto Sales in Skiatook, on Feb. 19, 2020, said that Paslay called him Nov. 9, 2019, and said there was a vacuum truck for sale at a surplus auction in Tulsa. Paslay reportedly told Atkins that he had a county purchase order to buy such a truck, but the vehicle would end up costing more than Paslay was authorized to spend. Paslay allegedly arranged for Atkins to pay for the truck and then resell it to Osage County.
According to Wilson’s affidavit, Paslay reportedly told Atkins that he would be helping the county, and he could make some money off the deal. Atkins reportedly paid $34,500 for the truck and then sold it to the county for $36,000.
“The whole process took longer than Atkins thought it would and ended up costing him about $500 in interest, so he did not make as much money as he thought he would initially,” Wilson’s affidavit says.
Regarding Thomas Teel, an OSBI agent named Richard Brown said in an affidavit that former Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan in October 2018 requested OSBI assistance in the investigation of District 2 employees for “possible misuse of county manpower, (and) equipment for personal use, and larceny of a county trailer and property.”
Brown reportedly talked to Teel on Oct. 15, 2018, and Teel reportedly admitted to having taken a county-owned trailer to his farm in Sperry and using it there.
Teel also reportedly admitted to the OSBI agent that he ordered other District 2 employees to haul dirt to his home from different county job sites, using District 2 manpower and dump trucks.
Paslay was the person who initially drew public attention to OSBI investigative activity regarding District 2 operations.
In October 2018, he announced at a meeting of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners that his district’s operations were being investigated by the state.
“OSBI is investigating the District 2 yard and our operations. They have been there once and have not been back,” Paslay said at the time. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
He said again in November 2018 that District 2 was being investigated, but no immediate result was announced regarding any probes into the district’s road-maintenance operations.