Oklahoma County DA tells Pardon and Parole Board to resign or face misdemeanors
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK & CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2013
1/31/13 at 8:44 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater told the state Pardon and Parole Board to resign or face misdemeanor charges for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act, multiple sources told the Tulsa World on Wednesday.
Prater recently met with Oklahoma City attorney Mack Martin, who represents the board, to make the offer, a source close to the issue said.
Prater told Martin he had looked at the situation and believed violations of the Open Meetings Act had occurred, the source said. Prater told Martin that he would file misdemeanor charges against the five board members if they did not resign, the source said.
A source said the offer would allow members to gradually resign so as not to interrupt the agency's operations or back up parole considerations.
"The rules of professional conduct for prosecutors do not allow me to discuss plea agreements before they are finalized," Prater said.
Martin said he couldn't talk about "any case I am involved in."
Prater last year accused the board of violating the Open Meetings Act for failure to adequately post information on agendas regarding what action it was considering. Board members denied violating the law.
Prater also accused the board of violating the law for recommending commutations for some inmates who were required to serve 85 percent of their sentences. An attorney general's opinion released in October said the board was within its power to recommend commutation, which is different from recommending parole. The Pardon and Parole Board requested the opinion.
"The Governor's Office has not asked me to resign," said board chairman Marc Dreyer, senior pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Tulsa. "I can't comment on whether anyone else has asked me."
Gov. Mary Fallin's office referred questions to Prater and board members. She declined to comment on the matter.
She has three appointees to the five-member board. They are Currie Ballard of Langston, David Moore of Edmond and Dreyer.
Lynnell Harkins of Oklahoma City was appointed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Richard Dugger of Oklahoma City was appointed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
A source told the Tulsa World the move to oust the Pardon and Parole Board members is part of an "orchestrated political effort" to restrict the board's powers after voters last fall approved a constitutional amendment removing the governor from paroles involving nonviolent offenders.
The measure faced intense pushback from law enforcement and district attorneys in Oklahoma, who said it would give the board too much power and not enough accountability. The measure was initially supported by Fallin, but she later reversed course and opposed it.
Until voters passed State Question 762, Oklahoma was the only state where all paroles required not only a recommendation from the board but also approval by the governor.
Meanwhile, Pardon and Parole Board executive director Terry Jenks said he plans to retire soon, something he has been considering since last fall.
Jenks said he was not familiar with Prater's offer and his decision to leave is unrelated to the allegations.
Jenks, 54, has been with the agency for 24 years, serving as director for 14 years. Prior to that, he was the agency's general counsel.
Original Print Headline: Parole board given ultimatum
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465 Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
David Prater: The panel was asked to resign or face misdemeanor charges on Open Meetings Act violations.
Marc Dreyer: "The Governor's Office has not asked me to resign."