Claremore Daily Progress

April 20, 2014

Rogers County Audit:

Anderson solicits vendor donations

Salesha Wilken
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE —

A recent report issued by Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones documented Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson solicited donations from several Rogers County vendors.
Anderson requested contributions from vendors for parties and events on behalf of District 2 Commissioner Mike Helm, according to the report.
The 2011 and 2012 reports issued earlier this month highlight examples of the donations Anderson received and a lack of procedures established by the county to accept them in an open meeting.
Jones states the condition could result in “unrecorded transactions, misstated financial reports, misappropriation of funds, and could result in noncompliance with state statutes and constitutional provisions.”
He recommends all donations to county officials be received in accordance with state law under title 60 O.S. § 390. 
The Claremore Progress first reported the issue in September 2012, revealing public records detailing Anderson’s transactions with several of the county’s vendors, including Time Striping, Kirby Smith Machinery, Bruckner’s Truck Sales, Boxcer Equipment, Warren Cat, Donelson Construction and APAC.
The donations are connected to several of the auditor’s findings both past and present.
Time Striping was the subject of a previous bid splitting issue documented by the auditor’s office in 2012 for both Helm and Commissioner Kirt Thacker.
Boxcer Equipment was the subject of findings in the 2011/12 audits involving a $583,910 drill rig purchased from the vendor by Helm with FEMA funds. The purchase was labeled a waste of federal funds by the auditor’s office.
Some of the vendors solicited by Anderson for donations were campaign donors to her campaign as well as Helm’s.  
The auditor noted a company from Clever, Mo. (Donelson Construction), a corporation, donated to Helm’s campaign.  
Records from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission show the corporation also donated to Anderson’s campaign in May 2012. 
According to state law, corporations are prohibited from contributing. 
The auditor listed several findings that included transactions with the company, determining Helm and Anderson “circumvented the bidding process,” showed preference to the vendor and “did not comply with bid procedures outlined in state statutes.”
These instances and others were included in the reports by the Claremore Progress in 2012.
Anderson solicited donations for parties often referred to as “appreciation dinners,” including door prizes and other gifts provided by vendors.
Public records show Anderson organized transactions, including an event on March 19, 2010 at the Hard Rock Casino in Catoosa.
Emails obtained by open record request give specific details of payment arrangements that were made by Anderson with vendors.
On March 9, 2010, Anderson wrote to the Hard Rock Casino, “Have any of the vendors given you their credit card information?”
Anderson also detailed a concern of one vendor: “I have a vendor that is wondering if he can make the check or credit card payment to the hotel only. His company is questioning him because of the casino name on it.”
In addition to the solicitation, Helm sent a thank you notes dated March 28, 2011, to vendors, including Trent Taylor at Time Striping. 
The letter states, “Your generosity never ceases to amaze me. You have come through time and again for Rogers County. The door prizes you have provided for our Christmas party were greatly appreciated. Again, our event was a tremendous success because of you. We can never survive without our partners. Sincerely, Mike Helm.”
The letters detail the relationship as Helm states, “your generosity has astounded us once again,” and “On behalf of the employees and officers of Rogers County, we thank you.”
The Progress obtained the letters by open records request from Helm’s computer located in the Rogers County Courthouse.
Multiple events were hosted by Rogers County District 2 and paid for by vendors, including an event at Rogers State University in March of 2012.
During the event, door prizes were given to employees and, again, there is no record of payment by Rogers County for the event, according to officials in the Rogers County Clerk’s office.
Rogers County’s own policy handbook addresses this issue. Under the guidelines for appropriate conduct, the policy states, “Types of behavior and conduct that Rogers County considers inappropriate include, but are not limited to the following…soliciting or accepting gratuities.”
Anderson’s emails detail not only the solicitation for these events but others. She asked vendors for funds to sponsor the summer picnic hosted by the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma.