Rogers County Commissioners Vote To Restrict Spending By One Of Their Own; OSBI Investigating

Monday, October 22nd 2012, 11:33 am
By: Craig Day

Two Rogers County Commissioners voted today to gain total control over all financial matters for the third commissioner, amid allegations of financial mismanagement.

Meanwhile, the D.A.'s office said the OSBI is looking into two of the commissioners.

Most of the meeting was routine, until an item on the Rogers County Commissioners agenda came up, which proposed that the full commission should assume control of all financial matters for District 2, which is represented by Mike Helm.

Commissioner Kirt Thacker initiated the issue.

"You spend money like a drunken sailor," Thacker said.

The measure, which passed, requires full board approval for every single expense from Helms' district.

Thacker says he has lost confidence in Helms' ability to govern.

"It's time that we either get this under control or public trust will be forever, at least in Rogers County, diminished," Thacker said.

Helm countered, saying his district has been responsible.

"There's never been a time that, financially, we have ever been insolvent or not able to pay our bills in District 2," Helm said.

Helm added there's no precedent for such a move by a county commission.

"We have a judicial system in place that investigates these things and looks into these things," Helm said.

Rogers County District Attorney Janice Steidley said the OSBI has, at her request, started investigating allegations of "bid splitting" involving both Commissioners Helm and Thacker.

Steidley said she acted after the State Auditor's Office identified possible bid splitting from ten road striping projects at a cost of $98,000, which should have gone out for bid.

While that investigation is underway, all expenses in Helms' district must get full commission approval.

"Either until this investigation is over and he's cleared, or as I said in there, he's indicted, one of the two," Thacker said.

Helm said, "When a fellow commissioner says you're spending money like a drunken sailor and they've lost all confidence in the ability to lead District 2 and public trust is eroding, what's your reaction to a fellow commissioner calling you out like that? I look at that and look at the circumstances of what scrutiny he may be under, and I'm not going to kick another commissioner. I don't do that."

The State Attorney General has appointed an outside District Attorney, Eddie Wyant, as special prosecutor.