Kennedy Building sale voided

Nathan Thompson
The sale of the Kennedy Building in downtown Pawhuska to out-of-state investor Jay A. Mitchell II has been terminated, after Osage County Commissioners failed to declare the structure as surplus property prior to an Aug. 16 auction. Nathan Thompson/Journal-Capital

The Aug. 16 sale of the historic Kennedy Building in downtown Pawhuska is now “null and void” because of a major mistake in the process and paperwork for the transaction to be legal, Osage County Commissioner Darren McKinney said this week.

“We did not declare the building to be surplus prior to offering it up to auction,” McKinney said. “We thought that we had done so prior to the sale, but the record shows otherwise. Because of that oversight, we had to call the sale of the Kennedy Building null and void during Monday’s (Board of County Commissioners) meeting.”

McKinney said the title company handling the $232,000 sale for Jay A. Mitchell II, the out-of state investor who won the auction, caught the error and was unable to proceed with completing the transaction.

“It was our mistake because, legally, we have to declare the Kennedy Building as a surplus property prior to offering it for sale,” McKinney said. “It was no one else’s fault other than the county commissioners, and it would have happened regardless of who it was that bought the building. This is not a reflection on Mr. Mitchell at all.”

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Kennedy Building, 550 Kihekah Avenue, was built in 1927 during the oil boom that brought thousands of wildcatters to town. It was known then as the Citizens National Bank building, a title that is still inscribed above the entrance to the building.

The historic nature of the four-story building as a bank is also indicated with vintage “Robbery Alarm” on the northwest corner of the structure.

In 1976, the National Bank of Commerce sold the 26,000 square-foot building to Osage County. County officials renovated the building in 1990 for the Department of Human Services and named it the Kennedy Building, in honor of National Bank of Commerce President Ed Kennedy.

Over the past several years, the Kennedy Building has remained vacant since the Department of Human Services relocated to 1100 Virginia Short Street, just north of Pawhuska Hospital.

The Kennedy Building went up for auction on Aug. 16, and Mitchell won the bidding war via telephone.

Now that the sale has been terminated because of the paperwork error, Osage County commissioners will have to pay for the auction service out of the county’s budget, McKinney said.

“We are going to have to eat that expense because of our error,” he said.

According to McKinney, the county commissioners will have to go back to the drawing board on selling the Kennedy Building.

“In a future meeting, we will have to vote to declare the building as surplus and then move on,” McKinney said. “I don’t believe we will handle the future sell through an auction. Instead, I think we will probably offer the building for sale using sealed bids.”

McKinney said he was not clear on when the Osage County commissioners will add an agenda item to the declaration of the Kennedy Building as surplus and move forward with the sealed bid process.

Commissioners meet Mondays at 10 a.m. in the Osage County Courthouse.