Commissioner confronts potential challenger about pipes

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay on Monday confronted potential electoral challenger Tom Teel during a county board meeting about the location and status of some old metal pipes.

Teel is a former District 2 employee who has made it known he hopes to challenge Paslay this year for his seat on the Osage County Board of Commissioners. Teel was seated in the rear of the boardroom Monday morning next to Scott Hilton, the man Paslay defeated in 2016 to become a commissioner.

Paslay spoke up when the commissioners came to the “New Business” item on their weekly agenda, looking at Teel and saying, “I’d like to ask him when he’s going to return the pipes that belong to the county.”

Teel tried to explain that Paslay had said something that allowed the pipes to be given away. Paslay wasn’t having any of it.

“I never said that,” Paslay said. “I have no recollection of that.”

Paslay told Teel that if he had to send workers to get the pipes, he would bill Teel for the cost of the retrieval.

Teel told the Journal-Capital in a later telephone interview that when he was still working for Paslay, an aunt of his asked if she could have some old, rotted piping that had been removed along North Lombard Lane. Teel said his aunt lives at a property where piping was removed, so the request amounted to the property owner asking if she could have the piping.

Teel said he told his aunt that he would have to ask Paslay if it was OK. County commissioners routinely sell scrap metal to recover its value for their road-maintenance operations.

“He said that was fine,” Teel told the newspaper.

“I feel like it is politically driven,” Teel said, when asked why he thought Paslay would say this week that he wants the pipe returned. Teel has a campaign Facebook page and has made no secret of his intention to challenge Paslay. “I feel like it is about the campaign.”

“As far as I’m concerned it should be between him and my aunt,” Teel added, clarifying that he was just the messenger.

Paslay told the Journal-Capital that he never said what Teel attributed to him.

“He does not have a witness,” Paslay said. “I never said that.”

Sheriff Eddie Virden and a representative of the Osage County District Attorney’s Office had a conversation with Paslay following the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, in which Virden encouraged Paslay to allow law-enforcement officials to investigate any and all matters that need attention with regard to District 2, without intervening in the situation himself. Virden cautioned Paslay that if he sent a crew to get the piping, the materials might need to be handed over to law-enforcement as potential evidence.

Virden told the Journal-Capital that he had received information and photographs, and had given those materials to the District Attorney’s Office. He indicated that he understood the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation would likely be called upon to conduct a probe.

During the county board’s meeting Monday, Paslay remarked that he has recently had some surgeries and personal issues, but he described himself as “back at 110% to serve the county and run for re-election.”