McKinney scolds officials about childish feuding

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage County commissioners were discussing Nov. 21 a proposal by District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones for a state audit of the county Sheriff’s Office and Jail, when County Clerk Robin Slack suggested the proposal looked to her like an act of “retaliation.”

On Nov. 14, District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt put forward a proposal for an audit of the Osage County Fairgrounds. Jones, who has had primary oversight responsibility at the Fairgrounds, said at the time that it looked like a “swipe” at him. In the interest of overall “transparency” before the public, District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney supported that audit proposal. McKinney clarified, however, that he didn’t intend to take sides between Talburt and Jones.

Jones came back the very next week with his audit proposal for the Sheriff’s Office and the Jail.

McKinney interrupted on Nov. 21 just at the point when Slack made a reference to “retaliation” and voiced his unhappiness with the behavior of other county officials.

“I’m tired of it,” McKinney said. He commented that cliques have developed within county government. “I end up refereeing between the cliques and I don’t like it.”

McKinney did not seek re-election this year and will leave the board in about a month. Fairfax municipal official Charlie Cartwright, who has been elected District 3 commissioner, will take office in January 2023.

McKinney has been the deciding vote on several occasions in 2022, when Talburt and Jones have been of differing opinions about questions before the Board of County Commissioners.

During his Nov. 21 remarks, McKinney clarified that he was addressing all of his fellow county officials. He lamented that there had been divisive behavior by members of the Board of County Commissioners, and by other officials. McKinney said he thought it was unfair for Cartwright and incoming District 1 Commissioner Everett Piper to have to come into county government in the middle of the poisonous political climate that has taken hold. He commented that he thought antagonistic behavior needed to stop immediately.

“We’re supposed to be grownups here,” McKinney said. “Let’s just get the business at hand done and let all the bullshit go.” He later apologized for his language.

“It makes us all look like children,” McKinney also said.

Talburt voiced support for better relations among county officials. “I want us all to get along,” he said.

Jones noted that some of the antagonistic behavior had been targeted at him. Jones also commented on the subject of other officials having “secret meetings.”

“I’m not invited to the secret meetings. The secret meetings are about me, and about the county,” Jones said.

It wasn’t immediately clear, though, that everyone was ready to make peace. When audience member Jerry Butterbaugh tried, shortly after McKinney’s comments, to ask a question of Slack, she refused to answer on the grounds that she didn’t like an item that Butterbaugh had written for a newspaper.

Jones’s proposal for an audit of the Sheriff’s Office and the Jail failed when he made a motion in favor of the audit, but neither of his colleagues seconded the motion. Jones said later that he knew his motion would fail, but he wanted the handling of the issue on the record.

Bar Complaint Dismissed

In another matter of importance to local government, the Professional Responsibility Commission of the Oklahoma Bar has dismissed a grievance that Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden lodged against District Attorney Mike Fisher.

Fisher, who provided the Journal-Capital with a copy of correspondence issued by the Oklahoma Bar regarding the dismissal of the complaint, at first considered making a statement about Bar’s action but changed his mind. He made no comment.

The Journal-Capital sent Virden a message, asking about his thoughts regarding the dismissal. Virden did not respond.