MIAMI — Thankfully, 2020 is over.

While COVID-19 has dominated the headlines, there’s been plenty of other reasons: the indictment of Ottawa County’s sheriff, changes at Miami City Hall and the death of a beloved Miami resident.

One of the biggest non-coronavirus related stories of 2020 involved sheriff Jeremy Floyd, who was indicted on two counts by a multicounty grand jury in Oklahoma City earlier this month.

Jurors accused Floyd of misusing $1,132 in county funds to fly his wife with him on a trip to Nevada.

The jury also accused him of lying about his past on this year’s declaration of candidacy in his bid for reelection.

Floyd was arrested and processed at the Miami Police Department before being booked into the Ottawa County Detention Center. He was released on a $50,000 bond on Friday, Dec. 17.

David Dean takes over as sheriff on Jan. 1 and will be sworn into office on Jan. 5 following an incoming audit is performed a day earlier.

The Ottawa County District Attorney’s office had requested that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation take over due to the results of an audit of Floyd’s department conducted by the office of the State Auditor & Inspector earlier this year.

One of the most glaring issues that led to his indictment was the improper use of a credit card to fly his wife to Las Vegas while attending a law enforcement seminar.

The audit showed overall fiscal management of the sheriff’s department contributed to the need for supplemental appropriations over a three-year period of almost $435,000 from the county.

It also indicated that Floyd charged questionable expenditures, and did not maintain adequate documentation. It also indicated, among other things, that obligations incurred in FY2019 were not timely encumbered and were paid with FY2020 funds, which is against the law.

The audit results also noted multiple purchasing statutes violations, purchase orders that were not supported, a purchase order not signed by the commissioners, and state contract records that were not maintained to support that 13 lease-purchased vehicles had been properly bid.

The auditors also reported that they were unable to locate deposits for $4,420.71 in cash bonds receipted by the sheriff’s department, cash bond receipt forms were not consistently completed, and all cash bonds that were receipted were not deposited daily or directly in the official depository as required.

The grand jury also accused Floyd of perjury on his declaration of candidacy for reelection earlier this year.

Floyd also was nagged by the aftereffects of a 2019 electrical fire in the county jail that was finally resolved in March — for the most part.

New faces

The City of Miami leadership took on a new look with the retirement of city manager Dean Kruithof and the election of Bless Parker as mayor.

Bo Reese takes the reins of Miami city manager on Jan. 1.

Reese, a Miami High School and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M graduate, is wrapping up a long stint with the State of Oklahoma and is retiring as Chief Technology Officer at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

He was selected from a field of 45 applicants.

Kruithof retired as city manager in July after having served in the position since 2014.

Parker defeated Rudy Schultz by a wide margin in a July municipal election.

Parker, a native Miamian, picked up 1,671 votes compared to 673 for Schultz, a margin of 69.26% to 27.9%.

Miles Price received 68 total votes.

Schultz had been mayor since 2013 and has served on the city council for 13 years.

November’s general election in Ottawa County saw two incumbents ousted: Steve Chasteen topped Chad Masterson for the county commission District 3 seat and David Dean beat Floyd.

Because of COVID, the Ottawa County Election Board received 770 requests for absentee ballots. That compared to 332 in 2016 and 343 in 2012.

Also there were 1,705 voters in the county who took advantage of early voting.

Republicans dominated in Ottawa County in the final vote totals, winning five of the six national, state and local races.

COVID-19

The affects of COVID-19 were far reaching, even extending to the world of sports.

The first death in Ottawa County was reported on March 25 by the Ottawa County Health Department.

By Dec. 22, the toll was 25.

Cancellations from the virus included Mural Fest 66, the long-running NEO high school basketball tournament, Sweet Street, the Boo Ha Ha parade, Miami’s Veterans Day parade and numerous tribal pow wows.

Rodeo Miami was bumped to late August and the Oklahoma Eight Man Football Coaches Association all-star game was delayed from June to mid-July. The Ottawa County Fair was moved up a week.

High school graduations were delayed and many proms cancelled.

Because of jumbled football schedules the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association opened the playoffs to all that wanted to participate.

Sadly, Afton had to forfeit its first-round game because of a COVID outbreak.

The National Junior College Athletic Association postponed most falls sports — including football and men’s and women’s soccer — until the fall and pushed back the start of winter sports.

Ottawa County casinos closed in March then gradually began to reopen with numerous precautionary measures in place.

Churches transitioned to social media like Facebook Live to conduct services.

A state election emergency was declared, pushing municipal and other elections slated for April 7 to June 30.

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and area high schools battled the virus also

Miami’s Good Neighbor Project, which benefitted the unemployed and those facing food shortages, was forced to shut down because of United States Department of Agriculture restricting the number of companies making bulk food deliveries to food banks from seven to only one for the entire state of Oklahoma.

The first round of COVID vaccinations began at Integris Miami Hospital on Thursday, Dec. 17. Frontline caregivers were in the first group.

School construction

Work on what will be the new Miami High School and the expansion and renovation of Nichols Upper Elementary began in earnest in January.

Part of a $19.03 million bond issue that was approved by Miami voters in May 2019, the new MHS will be a two-story building with 20 classrooms.

Once completed, students at Will Rogers Middle School will move to what is now the high school.

Construction is on track to see the new facility finished in time for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Pleads guilty

Ronnie Busick, who had been charged in the 1999 deaths of Ashley Freeman, her parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, and Ashley’s friend, Lauria Bible, pled guilty to a lesser charge of accessory to murder.

Busick received a 10-year prison sentence and five years of probation.

He had been facing charges of arson, kidnapping and murder but pled guilty on the lesser charge. The remaining charges were dropped.

BFG

The cleanup project at the old B.F. Goodrich plant concluded in January.

Phase 2 included removing a carbon black tank and Banbury mixers.

The highest priority of the Environmental Protection Agency led project, which began in June 2019, was the removal and off-site disposal of a number of debris piles, two structures and asbestos cleanup.

The BFG plant, which opened in 1946, was Miami’s largest employer before being shut down in 1986.

Dena Ander

Miami icon Dena Ander passed away on Saturday, Feb. 1, just short of her 105th birthday.

Ander had operated Anders Shoe Store on South Main, taking over for her father, Joe, who had started the business in 1930.

A fire destroyed the store in 2018.

New leader

Dr. Kyle Stafford took the reins at NEO on Jan. 6 after Dr. Jeff Hale retired after 11 years as president at the college.

He previously had been vice president of Academic Advancement at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.