Two former Kay County commissioners headed to court, allegedly mishandled millions of taxpayer dollars

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KAY CO., Okla. - Two former Kay County commissioners, facing an array of charges regarding the mishandling or embezzlement of taxpayer dollars, are scheduled for a pre-trial conference in one month.

Tyson Rowe and Dee Schieber had a hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in a Payne County courtroom in Stillwater, but the hearings were continued.

Rowe is facing one count of felony racketeering, six counts of felony embezzlement, and nine counts of willful violation of law regulating official conduct. Schieber is facing seven counts of willful violation of law regulating official conduct, all misdemeanors.

Tuesday's hearing comes nearly five years after a state audit uncovered the alleged illegal activity. That audit alone cost the state more than $90,000, but the sums of the money the two are accused of mishandling is much more.

The charges span back between 2011 and 2014.

According to the affidavits, both Rowe and Schieber are accused of repeatedly abusing the required process to choose a construction company for county work. Instead of letting companies bid and taking the lowest offer, they allegedly ignored the lowest bid or skipped it altogether, paying whichever company they chose to do the work.

Frequently that company was listed as Newkirk-based River Ridge Construction.

In one instance in November 2013, the affidavit states Schieber requisitioned and caused a purchase order to be issued to River Ridge Construction for the expenditure of $1,700,000 for construction work to be performed on Pecan Road." Another company had allegedly already submitted the lowest bid, but that bid was ignored. Ultimately, River Ridge Construction was paid $1,715,894.24 by Kay County and "the project was completed through River Ridge Construction without an official bid process as required by the [Public Competitive Bidding Act]."

Between the two men, this behavior was allegedly repeated ten times. There is also an alleged instance when River Ridge Construction was allegedly paid $516,000 of "unallowed costs" for a job that should have been re-advertised for bidding after the company was allegedly paid 19.5% more than the original amount of $955,000.

There are other transactions listed in the affidavit that allegedly violate the fair bidding process. All in all, more than $5,210, 616 in funds for public work was allegedly mishandled by the two.

But it doesn't stop there.

Court documents list two times when the Board of County Commissioners approved payment for River Ridge Construction to complete projects, but River Ridge Construction in turn paid the bulk of that money to R & R Dirt Contractors, a company co-owned by Rowe. In the amounts of $5,580, and $13,950, "Rowe, as a county commissioner, had essentially contracted for and approved county funds to be paid to himself through River Ridge Construction serving as an intermediary."

Rowe's affidavit also alleges the BOCC purchased a Hercules Machinery Corporation (HMC) pile driver for $180,000 from River Ridge Construction. But the affidavit, states HMC reported "the fair market value of the pile driver purchased was $100,000-$120,000" and "a new and comparable pile driver could have been purchased forĀ  $169,500." After the purchase was made, the affidavit states it couldn't be used by the county, River Ridge Construction held onto the equipment.

Then in January 2014, the BOCC received $1,215,407 in an agreement for a smelter site in Blackwell, Oklahoma. However, instead of putting those funds in a designated account, "Rowe began expending the funds for purposes other than so specified." It wasn't until May 27 that "the remaining unencumbered funds, totaling $140,724.81, were deposited into the designated account. The remaining $1,074,682.19 has not been recovered."

Alongside other charges, Rowe is accused of embezzling more than $1.2 million.

The trials for both men have been moved to Stillwater in Payne County after Kay County judges recused themselves. The pre-trial conferences were continued to March 5 at 1:30 p.m.

The attorneys for each man declined to comment.

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