Caught and Warned: Will Thacker and Helm continue their misdeeds?
Randy Cowling Editor
The first wave of legal judgment has arrived in the misdeeds of Rogers County Commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm.
First Assistant District Attorney Ben Loring of the 13th Judicial District, who was appointed by Attorney General Scott Pruitt, released his first findings of his investigation.
He sternly warns Thacker and Helm about bid splitting county contracts.
He cites four purchase orders regarding road striping projects — Purchase Order #003951 ($9,965.00, dated Nov. 20, 2009) and Purchase Order #004318 ($9,993.00, dated Dec. 7, 2009); Purchase Order #003691 ($9,927.00 dated Nov. 9, 2009) and Purchase Order #4322 ($9,600, dated Dec. 7, 2009). These were the only purchase orders the OSBI and Loring dealt with due to the statute of limitations.
“Please be advised that after reviewing the OSBI investigation into this matter, it is my opinion that each of you violated the intent of what is commonly called the “bid splitting” law (19 O. S. § 1501(A)(3)(a)) and there is even some evidence that would indicate that each of you did so with specific and knowing intent,” writes Loring.
However, Loring blames that statute for not filing charges against Thacker and Helm.
They did break the law, but there is nothing he can do about it. In other words, he cannot guarantee a conviction.
“However, it is also my opinion that the statute that prohibits this type of action is poorly written, and it would be difficult to successfully prosecute either of you under the fact situation as I understand it. Consequently, we are not filing any charges at this time on these four Purchase Orders,” writes Loring.
He acknowledges both Thacker and Helm have received training about when public bidding is required, but despite that training they choose to ignor state law. Loring say they should consult their District Attorney’s office.
“We agree with the SA&I (State Auditor and Inspector) interpretation and you are hereby put on notice that if you should have a similar situation present itself again in the future, you should consult with your District Attorney before taking actions like you did in this case,” Loring writes.
What makes this suggestion a farce is Thacker and Helm have been operating under the legal advice of Assistant District Attorney David Iski throughout this process. Iski, who is supposed to uphold state statutes, has been allowing them to break the law time and time again.
Isn’t it time that Rogers County taxpayers demand that District Attorney Janice Steidley get someone in her office that knows what is right and wrong? As long as Iski is whispering in Thacker and Helm’s ears, taxpayers will have no confidence in the commissioners nor the DA’s office.
How many more incidents does it take for Steidley to wake up and realize she is ultimately responsible for the misdeeds of Thacker and Helm by way of her assistant, who is there to keep them from breaking the law?
The saving grace of Loring’s report is the investigation is not over. The OSBI continues to delve into the alleged misdeeds of Thacker and Helm. Whatever turns up, reflects on Iski, Steidley and all of Rogers County.
“In the future, we anticipate further reports from the OSBI on other related issues that allege misdeeds on your part,” Loring writes.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for Thacker and Helm. There is more to come from the OSBI and Loring.
Will Loring’s stern warning solve the county’s problem of poor governing by Thacker and Helm? Only time will tell.
Randy Cowling is editor of the Claremore Daily Progress.