Rowe and Hermanson testify in Schieber trialFebruary 13, 2020 | Courts
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NEWKIRK — Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson and former county commissioner Tyson Rowe took the stand today in the Dee Schieber jury trial.
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.
Schieber and Rowe, 40, were charged with a host of crimes on March 31, 2017, by the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office. (see story)
Hermanson testified that he attends county commission meetings at least 45 times a year and that he did have concerns about the how the courthouse parking lot project was awarded. He said he spoke to county clerk Tammy Reese and the state auditors office about the matter. Hermanson testified that the auditor’s office had no concerns.
Schieber’s defense attorney, Jarrod Stevenson, asked Hermanson if he asked that charges be filed against anyone.
“No,” replied Hermanson.
“Were your concerns about the construction or the demolition,” asked Stevenson.
“It was the overall project,” said Hermanson. “I believe I asked questions about the process it was going through. I was concerned if there was engineering done.”
Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Austin Murrey, who is prosecuting the case, said it is not the auditor’s job to give advice to the district attorney.
Murrey asked Hermanson if he was present when commissioners vote. “If there were votes, I was there or someone from my office was,” said Hermanson.
“Do you recall the Pecan Road project being competitive bid twice,” asked Murrey. “I recall on one or more occasion Schieber asking about and doing a rebidding,” said Hermanson.
Stevenson called Rowe to the stand.
Rowe, who is serving a 90 day sentence in the county jail, (see story) took the stand in handcuffs. Murrey asked Rowe to explain how awarding of contracts took place.
“We would use a six month bid,” said Rowe. “We would go through each bid, open them, discuss the vendors and then accept or deny the vendors.”
“Did you ever receive bid numbers that cause you concern like overly high or low,” asked Murrey. “We would have some that were extremely low,” said Rowe. “They didn’t have the capabilities of doing what they were bidding on.”
“Did you take that in consideration as a commissioner,” asked Murrey.
“Yes,” answered Rowe. “Being in construction myself, I knew what they could do. I also relied on the other two commissioners for their input. On certain instances we did not accept the bids because of past work or projects that were not done in a timely fashion or the quality of work. To me it was our job to get what we need done in a timely manner.
Rowe talked about vendors who wouldn’t call back when they were selected. “There was no sense in taking their bid if they were not going to call you back,” said Rowe. “Hembree & Hodgson was one of them.”
Stevenson asked Rowe if he ever saw a change order submitted by a company while in office.
“There was one on the road in front of the jail,” said Rowe. “That was Hembree&Hodgson. I was advised by the other two commissioners, (Schieber and Steve Austin) about past jobs done by them and the problems that the county had with them. So I was advised about them early.”
Murrey asked Rowe about the bid process he used.
“When I did my first projects, I went out for bid so I could see the cost on someone bidding it. I did a package of three bridges together. The next one I did off the six-month bid and saved the county $20-30k.”
Murrey asked Rowe about when commissioners vote to accept the minutes of a meeting. “I know when I accepted or didn’t accept a bid we would state on the purchase orders why we didn’t accept it.”
“Do you have any memory of an open discussion on why the low bidders were not taken on the traders bend project,” asked Murrey. “I can’t recall,” replied Rowe.
Murrey asked the same question on the other projects.
Rowe said the Oakland Road project was not his and that he does remember a discussion on the courthouse parking lot.
“I assume there would be minutes,” said Rowe.
Murrey said the first time the project is mentioned in the meetings, is on July 9, 2012 when Schieber stated work had started. “I guess,” replied Rowe.
When asked about the Pecan Road project, Rowe said it wasn’t his project. “Again that wasn’t my project. I believe that those projects you are talking about are Bureau of Indian Affairs projects and that had a lot to do with what the tribes wanted to be done.”
Murrey asked Rowe if he learned how to do his practices from Schieber. “Yes and Steve as well,” replied Rowe.
He asked Rowe if he agreed that the Public Competitive Bidding Act is what the law requires. “No,” replied Rowe.
“I’m confused, your sitting in the jail because of bidding violations and you still dispute that is what the law requires,” said Murrey. I’m alleging that you and Mack Martin (Rowe’s attorney) discussed what the law says.
“Yes but when you build 40 bridges and three are wrong,” said Rowe. “And no one ever told me in three years that I was supposed to use six month bid. “When Oklahoma Department of Transportation ask you to use your six month bid for them. Now if ODOT asked me to do that. No one told me it was wrong.”
“Did someone tell you murder is wrong,” asked Murrey. “Yes,” replied Rowe.
“Isn’t it true that everyone is presumed to know what the law is,” asked Murrey. “There is a lot of them,” said Rowe. “That is why I asked my district attorney.”
“As an elected official it is your job to know the laws,” said Murrey. “Yes by asking the district attorney,” replied Rowe.
“You can’t open a book,” said Murrey. “Do you know what Title 19 is? “You have never read any of this have you.”
Rowe said he has attended seminars.
Murrey asked Rowe if had any knowledge of the Oklahoma State Court Network. “What is that,” asked Rowe.
Murrey showed Rowe the OSCN page on the internet.
“This would make it easy to find the laws,” said Murrey. “If you use computers,” said Rowe.
“Your telling me you don’t use computers as a commissioner,” said Murrey.
Murrey asked Rowe what he did when saving money and following the law conflicted. “You follow the law,” said Rowe.
“Do you think it is strange that you are testifying for the defense after what happened last week,” asked Murrey. “What happened last week,” asked Rowe.
“You were willing to testify for the state,” said Murrey. “My attorney asked if I would meet with you and I said no unless I was granted my work rights,” said Rowe.
“Basically you wanted a get out of jail card,” said Murrey. “I’m not seeking to modify my sentence, I just said I would not speak to you unless. That doesn’t mean I could have helped you,” said Rowe.
Stevenson asked Rowe what he has been doing at the jail as a trustee. Rowe said he has been fixing toilets and door locks. Stevenson asked Rowe about his plea deal.
“I never denied not doing anything that I was charged with,” said Rowe.“And taking a no contest plea was 90 days, pay the money and move on. Nobody ever told me that anything I was doing was wrong.”
“Did Dee ever say this is how you break the law,” asked Stevenson.
“No,” replied Rowe.
Murrey asked Rowe about the bidding process and said it sounded like Rowe was suggesting there are more law violations that haven’t been located yet. “I never actually read one of those deals that she puts on there when she solicits bids,” said Rowe.
Murrey said Rowe was present on June 20, 2011 when auditors delivered a 34-page report to county officials about problematic responses. “You chose not to make a response,” said Murrey. “To my knowledge the first two-years in office, they didn’t find anything wrong,” said Rowe.
Murrey gave a copy of the report to Rowe to review.
Stevenson said he hadn’t received a copy of the report and objected.
“Discovery was ordered a long ago,” said Stevenson. “This case is four years old and in my opinion this is a violation. They have been in possession of this document for a long time and there was no mention of this in discovery. I would ask the court to not the let the state go any further. The document is not addressed to Rowe or Schieber. It is addressed to the citizens of Kay County.”
Murrey said he learned of the document Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. “This is a public document and I didn’t know everyone was going to deny knowing their practices were problematic so I had to impeach him on the stand,” said Murrey.
Murrey told Rowe he was in office when the report came out. “I guess,” replied Rowe.
“It says there were problems with bidding procedures and that the managers of Kay County never responded to this,” said Murrey. “I don’t remember this report at all,” said Rowe. “I relied on the district attorney.”
“So it is your position that if you are breaking the law it is someone else’s job to stop you. Is that right,” asked Murrey. “No but I guess you took it that way,” said Rowe.
Murrey asked Rowe if he attended elected official training at Oklahoma State University and he said no.
“Just to be clear, you found out that Mr. Stevenson could not offer you benefits in return to testify and you were still willing to talk to him, so you picked your side,” said Murrey.
“Yes,” replied Rowe.
Stevenson asked Rowe if he had picked a side. “I answer as to how I see it,” said Rowe. If you did something wrong, you expected the district attorney to say something,” said Stevenson.
“Yes,” replied Rowe.
The defense rested.
Murrey called Mick Dodson, legal counsel for the auditor’s office back to the stand. Murrey said Rowe’s testimony indicated that county officers did not know about the 2011 report.
Dodson said the reports are published on the website and that counties are contacted one of two ways, scheduled meetings and or emails before the report itself is issued. Stevenson asked Dodson if he knew if Schieber and Rowe received copies of the report and or refused to attend an exit meeting.
Dodson responded no to all the questions. The jury spent most of the afternoon listing to closing arguments. Deliberations are set to begin tomorrow.
To see day one of trial testimony click here.
For day two testimony click here.