Sheriff says surveillance project followed regulations
Ponca City Now - June 16, 2016 11:27 am
By Beverly Bryant/News Director
An anonymous letter has been circulating in Kay County alleging wrongdoing by the Kay County Sheriff’s office in connection with security provided for a pipeline construction project in Grant County.
Sheriff Everette VanHoesen said Thursday that Kay County responded to a request from Grant County Sheriff Scott Sterling for mutual aid to provide security for the pipeline project, and he followed policies and procedures regarding such agreements.
There was not a private agreement between the pipeline company and the Kay County Sheriff’s Office, VanHoesen said.
“If it had not been a request for mutual aid, we would have had no authority to be there," VanHoesen said. “He requested that we be there.”
That agreement was made in August 2015.
VanHoesen said the oil company building the pipeline was paying Kay County Sheriff’s Office employees, but the employees would not have been working in Grant County if there had not been a request for mutual aid.
The Kay County Sheriff also said the total pipeline project lasted eight months, but that time was divided between Grant County and Kay County in about equal amounts.
“We had about the same amount of area and mileage involved in Kay County,” he said.
“Grant County is less than 5,000 population county-wide,” Van Hoesen said. “The biggest community is Medford. We have several agencies in Kay County and they all helped us help Grant County. We used our county and some city officers and state officers. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol does not allow its employees to use their vehicles off duty. We also had some tribal officers. We did not do all the work.”
VanHoesen said he provided copies of the department’s policies and procedures, as well as a copy of the policy with previous county commissioners, to the Kay County Board of Commissioners.
The sheriff said County Commissioner Vance Johnson has put the policy on the agenda for Monday’s meeting for review.
“There is no problem there,” VanHoesen said. “Vance is doing the proper thing. If they want to change that, they can.”
None of the current county commissioners were on the board when the policy was written in September 2008, the sheriff said.
Johnson has stated that he was disappointed the sheriff’s staff was not compensated for gasoline as part of the agreement.
VanHoesen said his staff did not patrol while watching the pipeline work.
“We watched a piece of equipment. We did not patrol the county or back and forth,” he said. “They were very big welders that welded the pipeline together and they were very carefully calibrated. We watched to make sure no one tampered with the equipment since they were so precise.”
VanHoesen said that of his staff of 12 employees, only he and the department’s K-9 officer did not work on the project.
The sheriff said this is one of several complaints that have been lodged against the department’s staff before the upcoming election to select VanHoesen’s successor as he retires. The election is June 28.
“We have done nothing improper or illegal,” he said.
Trey Davis of the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s office said last Friday morning that the office had received a copy of a letter outlining the complaints and would make inquiries on the allegations. He said the office would have to be invited to conduct an investigation and those requests usually come from law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office or the State Attorney General’s office.
Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson said last week there was no criminal issue. He referred to the Sept. 8, 2008, agreement on the use of the Sheriff’s Department vehicles, as well as the minutes of the Sept. 8, 2008, County Commissioners’ meeting where the matter was discussed.
The agreement is signed by the sheriff and the three county commissioners who were in office at that time — Laile Wilson, Steve Austin and Dee Schieber.