AUDITORS to look at Ottawa County finances

Tuesday, July 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ An investigation began Monday into the finances of Ottawa County, with auditors giving special attention to a county commissioner's use of his private construction company.

Clarence McLain, supervisor at the State Auditor and Inspector's Tulsa office, said the audit of the 1998-2000 records should take six to eight weeks. Investigators will study the revenue side of the county books and cover ``any other areas of concern while we're here,'' McLain said.

State Auditor Clifton Scott said auditors from his office already were in Ottawa County for a routine annual county audit.

``If the audit reveals that Mr. Crawford is above reproach and is legitimate, then he needs a public record to clear his name,'' Scott said.

Rumors have been circulating about whether County Commissioner Joe Crawford used his position to secure private construction jobs.

At the commission's Monday morning meeting, Crawford referred all questions about his company _ Center Line Construction _ to his attorney, Ben Loring. The commissioner and his wife own the company, according to state records.

Ten days ago, Crawford escaped injury when a bulldozer he was riding slipped into a sludge pond in Commerce. So far, efforts to retrieve the privately owned machinery have been unsuccessful.

At the time, Crawford's firm was building an industrial access road for the Newell Coach Co. in Commerce.

The project was a product of efforts by former Commerce Mayor Phil Crosby, state Sen. Rick Littlefield, D-Grove, and Crawford, Newell Coach plant manager Scott Lawson said.

The firm paid Crawford $17,500 to move dirt on the site for the road, with the money to be reimbursed through state funding, Lawson said.

Littlefield confirmed that he had been working with Crosby and Crawford to secure state funding for the industrial access road.