Employee drug testing modified

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Osage County commissioners voted 3-0 Monday to change their quarterly arrangement for employee drug testing, to allow District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay to have his road workers tested separately.

Paslay had raised a concern about lost time on the job in connection with the existing arrangement, which has involved all county road employees being tested in Pawhuska on the same morning every quarter. Paslay explained that he refused the quarterly test for his employees during a recent quarter because of concerns about an ongoing road project that needed to be completed.

Paslay recalled that he had personally taken a hand in running road-work machinery to try to finish the project, and he had been anxious that stopping the work for drug testing would mean too much time away from the job at a critical juncture.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney and District 1 Commissioner Jerry Howerton agreed to let Paslay opt out of the existing arrangement, but they will continue to have their employees tested at the county Emergency Management office on the same morning every quarter.

Jerry Roberts, director of Osage County Emergency Management, said Monday that handling as much of the testing as possible at one site has proven to be the best overall option in terms of time spent off the job.

“By 9:15, everybody’s gone back to work,” Roberts said, explaining that doing testing for everyone early on one morning has been an improvement over trying to do the testing at road shop sites around the county. State law imposes strict limits on communication about drug test timing, he said.

“By state law, I can’t notify the commissioners until two hours prior to the test,” Roberts said. “If we go back to the shops, I can only give the shops a two-hour notice that today is testing day.”

Paslay said his district is small enough geographically that he can summon any of his employees to the road shop quickly for testing. Howerton, by way of contrast, explained that District 1 is spread out enough over remote terrain that it can be very difficult to quickly assemble workers for a drug test.

“I am trying to save time here that we are losing,” Paslay said. He said that he doesn’t want to lose the element of surprise in testing, and he said that he is personally on the drug-test list and has no problem with that.

Roberts emphasized the current system, with all workers gathering at one site at one time, has proven the most effective that the county has tried, but he and Howerton and McKinney said they were willing to let Paslay handle his crew’s testing separately as long as it gets done in a timely way.

Roberts also reminded the commissioners that the passage of the state question regarding medical marijuana has not changed Osage County’s approach to marijuana use.

“We still have a zero-tolerance policy,” Roberts said. “Even with a prescription card — that prescription card doesn’t mean anything to us.”