An Oklahoma state auditor’s report is raising red flags over the 2020 purchase of two vehicles by the City of Piedmont.
Together, the purchases totaled less than $60,000, however, State Auditor Cindy Byrd said they violated both city and state laws.
“It basically confirmed everything that I suspected all along,” Piedmont Councilman Jonathan Hisey said.
The report found City Manager Jason Orr’s purchase of two vehicles were not properly bid out and were not previously approved by city council in accordance with city ordinances.
“No evidence could be provided to us to verify that either purchase was properly bid,” Byrd said.
She said the city manager also violated the state's Open Meetings Act in tallying votes on purchasing the vehicles during private phone calls.
“It was the opinion of three of the counselors that the city manager called them prior to the meeting seeking approval or a vote count to proceed with the purchase,” Byrd said.
“The city manager was under the impression that he could do it like he’s always done it, ‘That’s the way I’ve always done it,’ type of attitude and that’s why he did what he did,” Hisey said.
The auditor said there was no evidence Orr personally benefited from the purchases.
Orr declined a News 9 interview request but sent a statement saying:
“Leaders aren’t always right, but good leaders understand how to make things right. Before the report was ever released, we had already taken proactive steps and implemented corrective actions to address these concerns raised by our citizens,” Orr wrote.
“I don’t know if they learned their lesson,” Hisey said.
Hisey, who was not on council at the time of the purchases, said he believes Orr made $70-to-$80,000 in similar unapproved purchases after the 2020 audit had already begun.
“Throughout this process the city manager has had somewhat of a defiant tone, that he just did it the way they’ve always done it, and nothing was done wrong because there was no embezzlement,” he said.
The state auditor said she recommends the city manager and councilors brush up on the laws behind running the city.
“After interviewing them, we were surprised that they weren’t more familiar with these laws,” Byrd said.
As is standard practice, the auditor’s findings were sent to the district attorney and Oklahoma attorney general, who will ultimately decide whether charges should be brought.