McKinney resolves quarrel among colleagues

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney on Nov. 14 resolved a quarrel between his county board colleagues by voting in favor of an end-of-year state audit of the Osage County Fairgrounds. McKinney clarified that his only reason for supporting the audit was that he wanted to make sure things looked right to the people of Osage County.

McKinney told the Journal-Capital later that he meant to convey that he was not taking sides between his colleagues.

District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt said he put the issue on the Nov. 14 agenda of the Osage County Board of County Commissioners.

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones noted that Fairgrounds operations are officially subject to all three commissioners, and he questioned why Talburt didn’t ask to have other county activities that are subject to all three commissioners audited. Jones mentioned E-911, Planning and Zoning, and Emergency Management as other offices that answer to all the commissioners.

Jones also repeatedly said he wasn’t opposed to having the Fairgrounds audited, but added he didn’t want to spend the $5,000 that an audit would cost.

“I think that spending the $5,000 is a small amount to be transparent,” Talburt said. The propriety of the conduct of business at the Fairgrounds has not been an issue debated before the Board of County Commissioners, but the Fairgrounds did become an issue in the District 1 electoral process this year.

Jones lost his bid for re-election and will complete his four-year term of office at the end of the year.

“It feels like it’s a swipe at me, but it’s not. It’s a swipe at our employees,” Jones said, arguing that the request for an audit was being handled in such a way as to cast doubt on the work of county employees.

Talburt noted that Jones had more supervisory oversight of the Fairgrounds than his board colleagues, and reminded Jones that he had made a remark for a recent newspaper story about being willing to be subject to scrutiny. What Talburt didn’t mention was that Jones also told the Journal-Capital he favored having a grand jury investigation that would look not only at him but at his critics.

Jones said Nov. 14 that he would request an audit of himself, which he estimated might cost about $6,000.

For the Nov. 21 meeting of the commissioners, Jones placed on the agenda an item calling for discussion and possible action regarding an audit of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office and the Osage County Jail by the state. Sheriff Eddie Virden is a critic and political opponent of Jones. Talburt is as former Sheriff’s Office employee.