Officials: Laird out as chief

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Municipal officials said last week that Scott Laird is no longer Pawhuska’s police chief.

City Attorney John Heskett said Friday that Laird was on administrative leave and, when the leave was up, he would not be back with the Pawhuska Police Department. Heskett said Laird had voluntarily agreed to step aside, and that he is no longer police chief.

Heskett also indicated that City Manager Larry Eulert is interested in reorganizing the police department and that Eulert would likely be bringing in an outside consultant.

Mayor Roger Taylor, in a telephone interview, said he would be willing to confirm what Heskett had said, but preferred to say nothing additional since there had been discussion of the police department situation in an executive session of the City Council. The council held an executive session about employee matters at the end of its Oct. 9 meeting. When the council returned to open session, it did not vote on any decisions.

At least one other person with actual knowledge of the situation also confirmed what Heskett told the Journal-Capital about Laird’s status.

Eulert, however, confirmed only that Laird was on administrative leave. He declined to discuss the situation further, indicating he viewed Laird’s situation as a confidential personnel matter. The Journal-Capital expressed the view that a change at the top of the police department could not be a nonpublic matter. “You’re not always right,” Eulert said.

The Journal-Capital attempted to reach out to Laird to offer him a chance to comment, but did not receive a reply before deadline.

The Pawhuska Police Department has been the subject of adverse publicity of late, as two of its officers were arrested on misdemeanor charges following an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe. Officer Paris Adam Robertson was arrested on a charge of assault and battery, while Officer Robert Rulo III was arrested on a charge of false certificate by public officer. Each of the officers has a hearing scheduled for Nov. 7. The arrests stemmed from alleged mistreatment of a prisoner.

The City Council also heard complaints at its Oct. 9 meeting from holders of lake leases at Bluestem Lake about alleged lack of service from the city police department. Laban Miles told the councilors that police told him they couldn’t help with a report of a break-in at a lake lot. Both Eulert and Vice Mayor Rodger Milleson raised questions in the Oct. 9 meeting about why it was that city police couldn’t help, given that the lake lots are city property.