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November 13, 2013

County cellphone policy encounters a busy signal

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County's cellphone policy continues to remain in the dead zone.

At the Payne County Budget Board meeting Tuesday, the eight budget board member discussed county policy about using county property for personal use, particularly cellphones. The county discussed the idea going to a stipend for employees, but Payne County Sheriff R.B. Hauf didn't like the idea of the stipend system.

"I have concerns with the stipend," Hauf said. "It doubles the amount we are paying now and make the personal cellphone they are using subpoenable."

Payne County Court Clerk Lisa Lambert said she understood the sheriff's concerns about personal cellphones eligible for subpoena.

Hauf said according to an IRS statute, it's OK to use county-owned cellphones if there is the occasional personal call as long as the cellphone user doesn't abuse the county-owned property.

District 1 County Commissioner Zach Cavett said the best thing to do would be to come up with a definition of abusing county-owned property and what falls under the statute. Lambert agreed and she said the county needs to talk with the district attorney.

Reding said he wants the policy reviewed and that it needs to be more cut and dry. He said if he receives a phone call from his wife, it doesn't always mean it's a personal call.

"There were many times my wife called me about roads and change of schedule and stuff like that," Reding said. "And someone determined it was a personal call and went to the media about it and caused a stink."

The Budget Board decided on a 8-0 vote that the chairman would talk to Assistant District Attorney Lowell Barto and District Attorney Tom Lee about what is considered allowable use and what is considered personal use.

"We have to figure out what the intent was when they made that statute," Hauf said.

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