County commissioners authorize D.A.’s Office to proceed on vet bill case

Robert Smith

Osage County commissioners agreed Monday morning to authorize the District Attorney’s Office to pursue a resolution of a small claims case filed in November against Sheriff Eddie Virden and the Osage County Sheriff’s Office in regard to a veterinarian’s bill.

The civil action requests a judgment of $7,935 to cover the cost of veterinary medical services rendered by Margaret Bowman, a Ponca City veterinarian, doing business as Pioneer Veterinary Clinic, plus attorney fees for Grace K. Yates.

The case arises from a situation in which the veterinarian rendered services for dogs the Osage County Sheriff’s Office came into contact with in the process of responding to an animal-welfare situation. An animal-welfare group was involved, as well.

Sheriff Virden has been of the view that his department never took possession of the dogs. The Sheriff’s Department was not the party that called in the veterinarian, he says.

Commissioners met Monday in executive session to discuss the veterinarian’s legal action. Before the commissioners met behind closed doors about the subject, Celia Lanham, former chair of the Osage County Republican Party, used the citizen input provision of the county board’s agenda to voice her concern about whether the county might be about to settle the case without giving the sheriff a chance to defend himself and his department.

Lanham said she was concerned that the resolution of the vet bill lawsuit could have political implications, depending on how it was handled, and she urged the commissioners to allow Virden to actively defend himself.

Virden said after the executive session that his understanding is the D.A.’s Office is being empowered to seek a negotiation with the veterinarian and her attorney. Virden said that a settlement of the lawsuit will not affect his budget, as settlement funds would come out of another account. He also indicated that this case may lead to the development of new procedures on the part of the county.