Former Kay County Commissioner goes on trial

February 11, 2020 | Courts

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NEWKIRK — Former Kay County Commissioner Dee Schieber, 66, is now on trial in Kay County.

Schieber and former county commissioner Tyson Rowe, 40, were charged with a host of crimes on March 31, 2017, by the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office.

Last year Rowe entered no contest pleas to three charges of embezzlement of county property; two felony charges of embezzlement by a county officer; embezzlement by a public officer and nine felony charges of willful violation of law regulating official conduct. A felony charge of racketeering was dismissed.  (see story)

Tyson Grant Rowe

Rowe was ordered to pay restitution and received a 10-year-deferred sentence and a one year suspended sentence on the misdemeanor charges. He is currently serving 90 days in the Kay County Detention Center. (see story)

Schieber, who served as Kay County Commissioner, 1995-2015, has pled not guilty to seven misdemeanor charges of willful violation of law regulating official conduct.

He is accused of not following bidding and or purchase procedures on various projects including the construction of Oakland Avenue resulting in commissioners approving a payment of $155,286.20 to River Ridge Construction with out taking bids.

Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler is presiding over the case and Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Austin Murrey is prosecuting. The jury is made up of four men and two women.

Opening Statements

“This case is about a series of events involving Schieber,” said Murrey. “There are numerous instances in which laws were violated.”

Murrey said the Traders Bend Road head walls project was given to River Ridge despite no sealed bids submitted. He said Schieber tried to rely on that line items can be used only in specific instances.

He said Kay County paid River Ridge Construction despite the fact they were not the low bidder, they didn’t give a quote and they were not on the six month bid project.

Murrey referred to the Oakland Avenue project, citing four violations that include the project not being bid as a whole project. He said Kay County paid $155,268 despite the lack of bonding and insurance. He pointed out that the road project was redone a year after it was completed and added that Kay County paid River Ridge Construction for the project despite the fact they were not the low bid.

“River Ridge Construction was paid for items that they did not put in quotes on the six month project,” said Murrey. Kay County over paid by $38,000.

Murrey addressed the courthouse parking lot project.

He said the project was bid in “a sham way” through the six month term list. “Kay County paid $331,000 to River Ridge Construction with out going out for sealed bids,” he said. “River Ridge was again not the low bidder.”

Murrey addressed the Pecan Road project also completed by River Ridge. “Again there were no sealed bids. Schieber just gave the project to them.” Murrey said Schieber, Darren Wood, owner of River Ridge, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Road Engineer, Tom Simpson, were in collusion on the Pecan Road project. “The evidence will show that Wood is related to Schieber by marriage,” he said.

Schieber’s attorney, Jarrod Stevenson, called the case a “political witch hunt.”

“This comes down to a business that is upset that the county chose another business,” said Stevenson. “That business didn’t come to a meeting, instead they hired an attorney to go digging. They are mad that they didn’t get the money. That is what this whole thing comes down to.”

Stevenson said the evidence will prove that Schieber’s actions were not willful.”We are going to hear that this six- month bid process was done the way it has always been done. If a road is cracked right now, I can’t wait two weeks when I have prices now. That is one of the reasons they did this this way.”

Stevenson said the laws require a commissioner to choose the lowest responsible qualified contractor not just the lowest bidder.

“The evidence will show you that the BIA provided a lot of money to the county for roads,” said Stevenson. “The tribe has a vested interest in making sure the roads are working. They wanted certain roads fixed a certain way.”

Stevenson said Wood is married to the daughter of former Kay County Court Clerk Mary Ramey, who is Schieber’s cousin. 

“Schieber is also related to the Hembree & Hodgson Construction family, one of the companies that is mad that they didn’t get the contract,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson said the evidence will show that Schieber did not benefit in anyway from these projects.

“He did not receive kickbacks, cars or anything,”said Stevenson. “You will hear that Tyson Rowe did benefit and is in the county jail right now for it. Schieber got the pleasure of knowing he did his job to benefit the citizens of Kay County. If it happened the way the state said, it was an accident.” 

Testimony

Murrey called Kay County Clerk Tammy Reese to the stand.

Reese has served as county clerk since 2005.

She explained the work her office does in regards to keeping records and the bid process.

“Every six months commissioners go out for bids for commonly used items such as janitorial, concrete, and bridge supplies,” said Reese.

“How do vendors submit bids,” asked Murrey.

“It goes in the newspapers, to Bid News and to Pioneer Tech Center,” replied Reese. 

“Are you aware of River Ridge turning in a bid after deadline,” asked Murrey.

“We have had that happen before but I can’t swear that it was River Ridge,” replied Reese.

Murrey asked if Hembree & Hodgson submitted a large number of bids to the county during the time period in question.

“It seems like they did,” Reese answered.

Murrey asked Reese about disagreements she has had with Schieber.

Reese said there were things Schieber wanted her office to do that she did not believe was legal. 

“In general did you find him to take disagreements well,” asked Murrey.

“No,” replied Reese.

Murrey questioned Reese about a purchase order from 2010.

Reese explained details about the purchase order to the jury.

Stevenson cross examined Reese

“Is Mr. Schieber the only official you have had a disagreement with,” asked Stevenson.

“No,” answered Reese.

“Did Schieber ever come to you and ask you to break the law,” asked Stevenson.

“We had an issue about travel one time and I remember us having disagreements on it. If I remember correctly, he didn’t want to keep track but he felt like he was traveling more than he was receiving.”

Murrey called Wood to the stand.

Wood said he and his wife are co-owners of River Ridge Construction.

He said his business did work for Grant and Alfalfa counties before Kay County.

Murrey showed Wood a proposal made on a 2013 Pecan Road project and asked him how the document came to be.

“I have no clue,” said Wood. 

Wood said the document looks like a proposal and not a sealed bid.

“Is this the biggest project you did for Kay County dollar wise,” asked Murrey.

“I believe so,” replied Wood.

Murrey asked Wood if it is typical to enter into projects signed on by one commissioner.

Wood said any job his company has ever done he believes went through a commission meeting. 

Testimony is set to continue Wednesday.

Dee Schieber