Commissioners move to adopt new districts

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage County commissioners on Nov. 8 examined and made changes to a proposed county redistricting map, prior to approving an amended version of the map by a 3-0 vote.

The approval of the Board of County Commissioners was anticipated to become final on Nov. 15, when they were scheduled to vote on a formal resolution and a version of the map showing changes that were made Nov. 8.

Rich Brierre, executive director of the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), on Nov. 8 suggested the commissioners focus their attention on Plan 6, one of seven redistricting map proposals that INCOG developed for review by Osage County officials.

Citizens attending the Nov. 8 meeting were provided with copies of the seven maps, and the commissioners arranged for a projector to be used to show documents on a wall behind their board table, as needed. Plan 6 was projected on the wall and commissioners discussed what they liked and disliked about it.

Brierre and the commissioners referred to the updated version of Plan 6 (alterations were being made during the discussion) as Plan 6A. Several minor changes were made, and those were to be incorporated into a final map that was to be available for inspection Nov. 15. The commissioners now hold their meetings in the Women's Building at the Osage County Fairgrounds.

The final map was expected to bring the three commissioner districts into legal compliance by making sure there is less than a 10 percent population variation from the least populous to the most populous.

A member of the audience asked during the discussion if he could submit an alternative plan for consideration. District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney, who chairs the county board, accepted the proposed alternative plan, which its proponent said was intended to provide "very clean lines" between districts and to focus on trying to keep people in the districts of the commissioners for whom they had voted.

The commissioners chose to adopt the version of Plan 6 that they had amended, rather than the proposed substitute.

"I kind of like the way we have it," District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones said.

The Pawhuska Journal-Capital asked that the name of the person who offered the substitute, as well as that person's organizational affiliation, be noted in the record. The man who introduced the document had not stated his name.

The person who introduced the proposed substitute or alternative plan gave his name as Wayne Hill, and said he was not introducing the plan on behalf of anyone other than himself. Mr. Hill is chairman of the Osage County Republican Party.

The Journal-Capital talked after the meeting with Hill, and offered him an opportunity to clarify that while he is chairman of the county Republican Party, he in fact intended to submit the proposed alternative plan on his own behalf, rather than on behalf of the party.

"I'm a citizen and I want my input," Hill said. He also mentioned that he intends to be a candidate for the District 66 seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Jones, a Republican whose District 1 Board of Commissioners seat is to be on the ballot next year, indicated he wasn't convinced Hill was acting only for himself in regard to the redistricting proposal he submitted.

There has been concern expressed among some Osage County Republicans that Jones might have exerted, or attempted to exert, more influence on the redistricting process than the other two county commissioners. Jones has denied doing anything improper, and has argued that his opponents within the party are trying to manufacture an issue.

Correspondence that another Republican obtained through an Open Records Act request indicates that District Attorney Mike Fisher received information in late October from INCOG regarding its interactions with county commissioners on the subject of redistricting. Documentation that INCOG provided to Fisher indicated that Jones was the first of the three commissioners to communicate with the agency about redistricting.

Fisher said that a review of Osage County's redistricting process is to be conducted by the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office. It may be a couple of weeks before that review is completed, Fisher said Nov. 12.

Fisher also said that his examination of the redistricting plan on which the commissioners agreed did not cause concerns for him. He said the commissioners' plan didn't "raise any red flags."