A local business owner who was outraged by the decision to dissolve the Cleveland County Budget Council will ask voters to elect him as the next county commissioner.
Rusty Grissom, a Republican, business owner and Noble resident, will face incumbent Harold Haralson in the June primary. The election also attracted Democrats JD Krohmer and Mona “Mo” Vaughn, who will fight for the seat.
Haralson and District 2 Commissioner Dari Stacey voted on February 21, 2021 to dissolve the board, while District 1 Commissioner Rod Cleveland voted against. The decision sparked a protest from county residents, who thought the move reduced transparency. Budget councils allow all eight county elected officials to vote on the county budget, while the excise council – which the county currently uses – relies on three appointed members to approve before the commission adopts it.
Grissom, the 37-year-old owner of Grissom Landscape Nursery, said his top priority would be to restore the budget council and strengthen relations with other elected officials to improve the county’s business.
“This will be my first order,” he said. “I don’t think this should be just a vote of the district commissioners. There is much more oversight if you have all the county officials, because they know their budget better than the county commissioners. They all need to participate and have a voice. ”
The budget council as a model for approving the county budget was introduced into state law after a scandal with kickbacks in the 1980s, when 200 county commissioners across the state were convicted or found guilty of financial crimes.
The county government may add a budget council to its excise council to approve budgets for all elected county officials.
The decision of the commissioners to dissolve the budget council provoked a protest from the residents, who said that the more views on the budget, the better.
Haralson and Stacey said the board was an unnecessary duplication of the county government, and said the move increased transparency as excise council meetings were held in the commissioner’s boardroom. The Budget Council was held in another building.
Both meetings are open to the public.
Several elected officials opposed the decision, including the district assessor, the county treasurer and the court secretary. Grissom said the decision to disband the board had worsened relations with the county.
“There is so much disagreement in the courtroom at the moment,” he said. “When I get there, we’ll work together and make Cleveland County better.”
The candidate said he has experience in government and a list of achievements working in several boards of office.
He served 12 years on the Cleveland County Fairgrounds and observed numerous improvements to the fair’s facilities. Grissom also served 21 years on the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Council and was elected by the board to serve as its representative on the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative Council for 16 years.
During his tenure on these councils, he advocated fiber optic cable, an achievement that became critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when high-speed Internet service was launched.
“I went to class for fiber [cable] and so I brought it to [OEC] board and then we started doing research, “he said. “We had a very successful fiber project and it was a huge success. It was great for our members. During the pandemic, we had high-speed internet for all the people who had to stay at home, the children who had to stay at home and do school work. It’s a difficult time. “
Grissom said he would increase participation and communication with all county officials to improve transparency and set goals.
A recent series of layoffs at Haralson County Barn staff also prompted Grissom to run for office. In January, Haralson fired three employees following a theft complaint against an employee.
After this employee was fired, two others were fired. Haralson requested an audit from the office of the state auditor and inspector. County spokesman Joy Hampton said the two employees had been fired “for lack of confidence in their abilities”, according to The Transcript.
No criminal charges have been filed so far. Auditor Cindy Byrd expected the investigation to be included in the state’s annual audit.
Grissom said he would spend the necessary time in the barn to ensure compliance with the procedures.
“If you had to fire three employees, something serious is happening below,” Grissom said.
Grissom said he has time to run the area now that his son and wife are running the nursery operations.