Paslay cites ‘change of heart’ in decision not to run

Robert Smith

District 2 Osage County Commissioner Kevin Paslay said Monday he just thought this wasn’t a good time to run for re-election.

“Just kind of had a change of heart,” Paslay said, when asked why he didn’t submit a candidacy declaration during the filing period, April 8-10. Paslay is a former Skiatook city councilor who nearly four years ago defeated long-time Osage County commissioner Scott Hilton.

In recent months there has been apparent conflict between Hilton and Paslay, and Hilton has filed documents in Osage County District Court, seeking a protective order against Paslay. A hearing on Hilton’s request has been postponed until May 21, and a temporary protective order remains in place.

At a Feb. 3 meeting of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners, Paslay said he had recently had some surgeries and personal issues, but described himself as “back at 110% to serve the county and run for re-election.”

Hilton filed his protective order request with the court Feb. 13.

On March 4, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan filed a charge of bid rigging against Paslay, following an investigation. That case is pending.

During the April 8-10 candidate filing period, four people put forward their names for District 2 Commissioner — Hilton, of Skiatook, running as a Democrat; Joe Williams, of Tulsa, running as a Democrat; Steve Talburt, of Skiatook, running as a Republican; and Tom J. Teel, of Sperry, running as a Republican.

Teel is a former District 2 employee. He also has been charged in a felony case in Osage County District Court. On March 4, District Attorney Kevin Buchanan of Washington County charged Teel with two counts of embezzlement by employee, following an investigation. The next court date in that case has been postponed until June 12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Osage County commissioners met again Monday in the Ag building at the county fairgrounds. The board voted to continue keeping the county courthouse in Pawhuska closed to access by the general public, and also voted to continue the prohibition on public activities in county-owned buildings. These measures are elements of the county’s social distancing program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Monday, Osage County had 65 positive test results for COVID-19 infection and 8 deaths, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Emergency Management Director Jerry Roberts said he anticipated it would be early May before Gov. Kevin Stitt began to lift restrictions on public activity. District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones said he thought it looked as if social distancing measures had been effective in Osage County.

Jones added that when the county eventually reaches the point of reopening county-owned buildings for public events, there will have to be a discussion about specific event guidelines, with a view toward incorporating a continued element of social distancing.