Jones voices intent to pay off Dist. 1 debt

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones on Dec. 19 sought county board approval to move $203,000 from a projects account to an equipment rental account to pay off equipment-related debt before leaving office at the end of the month. The move drew an objection from an associate of the commissioner-elect, who is scheduled to take over as District 1 Commissioner in January 2023.

Jones explained he was paying off debt related to motor graders.

Jeff Clymer, an associate of commissioner-elect Everett Piper told the Board of County Commissioners that it had come to his attention that the financial resources of District 1 were being “drained” before Piper could take office.

Piper was present, but did not address the board.

“The retaliation has got to stop,” Clymer said, attempting to characterize Jones’s money move as an act of political aggression. Clymer asked for Jones’s request to be tabled for a couple of weeks, until Piper could take office.

Jones directly denied Clymer’s allegations regarding account-draining and political retaliation. Jones said he will be required by law to leave at least $500,000 in place for Piper, and that he plans to leave considerably more than that. Jones added that what he intended to do was to eliminate debt before leaving office.

District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt told Clymer that he understood incoming commissioners would like to have as much money on-hand as possible when taking office, but Talburt defended Jones’s prerogative to wrap up the business of District 1 under his leadership as he saw fit.

The board voted, 3-0, to approve the funds transfer. Jones, Talburt and District 3 Deputy Commissioner Ted Smith supported it.

Talburt took care to speak with a representative of the Journal-Capital afterward and emphasize that he respected Jones’s right to handle District 1 business as he saw fit during the waning days of his term of office.

Jones told the newspaper that when Piper takes office, District 1’s road equipment will be in better shape than it was when he (Jones) took office, and there will not be any legacy of indebtedness. He described his desire to eliminate debt in terms of political conservatism.

“I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done,” Jones said.

District 1’s finances are to be audited by the staff of the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector as Jones leaves office. Jones requested the exit audit, and commented Dec. 19 that it was not a required move on his part.

In other business regarding financial management, Jones on Dec. 19 encouraged Talburt and the two incoming county board members – Everett Piper and Charlie Cartwright – to exercise careful oversight of the county’s nutrition program for the elderly.

Jones voted against a funds transfer request by the nutrition program, but the measure passed by a vote of 2-to-1, as Talburt and Smith supported it.