Delaware County fires jail manager
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL World Correspondent
Thursday, November 10, 2011
12/28/11 at 3:55 PM
JAY - A Delaware County jail administrator who has been at the center of a firestorm involving the Sheriff's Office and a $13.5 million lawsuit settlement has been dismissed from his position, according to records released Wednesday.
Lonnie Hunter, who has been on administrative leave since June 29, went through an exit interview on Wednesday, according to Delaware County records.
Hunter began working for the Sheriff's Department in March 2003 and at the time of his dismissal was making $1,650 a month, records show. A one-page written exit interview form shows Nov. 15 as the date Hunter will be discharged. The form indicates he is being dismissed and not retiring or resigning.
Hunter does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.
He has been on administrative leave for several months after the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation earlier this year.
Hunter and Bill Sanders Sr., who died in November 2008, were at the middle of the multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit in which 15 former inmates accused the Sheriff's Department of rape and other forms of sexual assault and of former sheriff Jay Blackfox of covering up the men's actions.
Blackfox has denied any wrongdoing and was never accused of any sexual misconduct. He resigned on Friday.
Hunter has not been charged with any crimes.
District Attorney Eddie Wyant said the OSBI investigation into Hunter's alleged actions is ongoing.
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown confirmed an investigation was opened June 1 at the request of the Sheriff's Department on allegations of official misconduct.
"I wish that there was something that I could have done to intervene and keep any of this from happening, but there was nothing that I could do," Wyant said about the misconduct in the Sheriff's Department.
Wyant, who did not represent the county in the settlement nor was involved in defending the lawsuit, received a complaint involving Sanders and five of the plaintiffs in 2008.
Some of the women refused to be interviewed and there was evidence from other witnesses reflecting inconsistent stories, which led the District Attorney's Office to make the decision they were unable to prosecute a criminal case, he said.
Sanders also denied to investigators he did any wrongdoing.
"The state must show for any criminal case that the defendant committed the crime beyond any reasonable doubt while in a civil rights claim the plaintiff's attorney only have to show it is more likely than not or a preponderance of the evidence," Wyant said.
"This whole thing makes me extremely angry as well," Wyant said.
Delaware County is a member of the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma-Self Insurance Group. An Oklahoma City law firm was selected by the county's insurance carrier to defend the county in the civil rights lawsuit.
"Our firm represented the county in the civil rights lawsuit," said Chris Collins, one of the attorneys for the county's insurance carrier. "The District Attorney's Office did not participate in the civil litigation in federal court."
The attorney fees for Collins, Zorn & Wagoner, the county's attorneys, is about $600,000, the county commissioners said last week when they announced the settlement.
County Commissioner Doug Smith said commissioners could appoint a new sheriff as early as next week. Currently, four applications have been submitted.
Capt. Robert Rowley is handling the day-to-day activities of the Sheriff's Department.
Original Print Headline: Delaware County fires jail manager
The following events are taken from pleadings by attorneys in the federal court case against the Delaware County Sheriff's Office and other public records.
September 2004: Jay Blackfox takes office as Delaware County sheriff.
September 2007: Reserve Deputy William L. Sanders Sr. begins transporting inmates for the Sheriff's Office.
March 21, 2008: Female inmate files a complaint regarding inappropriate sexual behavior by Sanders.
March 24, 2008: Sheriff's investigator interviews Sanders, who denies allegations.
June 30, 2008: Four female inmates file a complaint regarding Sanders.
July 2008: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation opens its first investigation.
September 2008: District Attorney Eddie Wyant receives the OSBI report regarding Sanders and decides not to file charges.
October 2008: OSBI closes its first investigation.
Nov. 25, 2008: Sanders dies at age 63.
June 24, 2009: Four women sue the Delaware County Sheriff's Office in federal court alleging civil rights violations. Plaintiffs are added throughout the course of the lawsuit, bringing the final total to 15 women.
June 25, 2009: A charge of assault and battery on a jailer is filed against one of the plaintiffs, a mentally disabled woman among three inmates allegedly raped.
April 8, 2011: Former female inmate gives a deposition in the case, alleging crimes committed by current employees of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.
May 26, 2011: U.S. Magistrate T. Lane Wilson signs an order allowing defendants to report alleged criminal behavior of Delaware County Sheriff's employees to the OSBI.
June 1, 2011: OSBI launches second investigation.
June 29, 2011: Jail administrator Lonnie Hunter put on paid administrative leave, according to county records.
Nov. 2, 2011: Delaware County Commissioners vote to pay $13.5 million to settle the lawsuit.
Nov. 4, 2011: Blackfox resigns.
Wednesday: Records released showing Hunter's dismissal effective Nov. 15.
- By Ziva Branstetter, World Enterprise Editor