Claremore Daily Progress

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July 27, 2012

PIO funding taken from account designated for roads and bridges

CLAREMORE — The Rogers County Commissioners continue to face questions about the recent contract position with Kristen Bergman, president of Atmos Strategic Communications.

Bergman was hired by the commissioners on March 5 to serve as the Rogers County Public Information Officer.
In a 2 to 1 vote, commissioners did not renew Bergman’s contract. Commissioners Kirt Thacker and Dan DeLozier voted not to extend the contract, while Mike Helm voted to continue it.
In March, commissioners discussed hiring a PIO during executive session and unanimously approved the initial 4-month contract, according to minutes of the commissioners’ meeting.
Since then, several issues have emerged surrounding the contract.
According to state statutues, contracts for professional services are not subject to competitive bidding.
Bergman, the contractor, was recommended to commissioners by David Iske, Assistant District Attorney. Iske is the District Attorney’s liaison to the commissioners and advises commissioners as legal counsel on issues, including contract work. 
Commissioners drew funds from the county’s T-Highway Fund account to pay for the new position.
Questions arise to Bergman’s work with roads and bridges as the county’s PIO.
“T-highway revenues are from state imposed fuel taxes and disbursements are for the maintenance and construction of county roads and bridges,” according to the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s office.
State statue also supports the auditor’s report and a standing attorney general’s opinion states “The salaries of the county commissioners’ employees may be paid from the County Highway Fund, authorized at 69 O.S. 1503, so long as those employees are employed in the construction, maintenance and repair of the county highway system.”
The opinion also states that the portion of that salary drawn from the highway fund must be proportionate to the portion of those workers’ time, which is “directly and exclusively related to the highway system.”

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