Misdemeanor charges filed against Oklahoma parole board members
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 14, 2013
3/14/13 at 7:57 AM
The Oklahoma County district attorney filed misdemeanor charges Wednesday afternoon against members of the state Pardon and Parole Board, alleging violations of the Open Meeting Act, according to court records.
Marc Dreyer, board chairman and senior pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Tulsa, said he and the other defendants will report to the Oklahoma County Jail on Thursday morning to be processed.
The court filings show 10 counts were filed against each of the board members.
The board's five members all rejected an offer to resign in February to avoid the charges, as previously reported.
Dreyer said he understood that the bonds would be set at $5,000.
"Which to me is just incredible that they're not giving us personal recognizance bond," he said.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater last year accused the board of violating the Open Meeting Act by posting vague agendas without enough information for the public to understand actions the board was considering.
"Every effort was made by me to resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner before the filing" of the charges , Prater said in a statement. "The board members were offered an opportunity to step down two at a time to allow the board to operation with a quorum and continue board business."
Prater also accused the board of violating the law by recommending commutations for some inmates who were required by law to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they could be paroled.
An Oklahoma attorney general's opinion released in October said the board was within its power to recommend commutation, which is different from recommending parole.
Also charged in the separate filings are board members Currie Ballard of Langston, David Moore of Edmond, Lynnell Harkins of Moore and Richard Dugger of Oklahoma City.
The scope of the investigation against the board went back to January 2010, but the charges filed Wednesday go back to May 2011, Prater said.
"The criminal information in this case alleges board activity designed to hide potentially unpopular actions of the board from the citizens it serves," he said. "As alleged, the board was making crucial public safety decisions without giving the citizens of Oklahoma an opportunity to scrutinize its activity."
Clark Brewster, a Tulsa attorney representing Dreyer, said the charges are disappointing to him and Dreyer, who felt he was pressured to resign unfairly or face charges.
"In the documents we reviewed, the same procedure has been in place for more than 20 years," Brewster said. "There's nothing new. This board has always tried to be completely transparent."
Gov. Mary Fallin released a statement after the charges were filed pledging support for the Pardon and Parole Board members.
"They (the board members) are tasked with difficult decisions that have a profound impact on many Oklahoma families and communities," Fallin said in the statement. "While I may sometimes disagree with their individual recommendations, I have been thankful to work with board members who take their job seriously."
Fallin called Prater's allegations last year "reasonable observations regarding the way the board communicates," but she said those problems are being addressed.
"Filing criminal charges against parole board members that have already worked to address Mr. Prater's concerns will have a chilling effect on individuals interested in public service," Fallin said.
Original Print Headline: Members of parole board face charges
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Marc Dreyer: The chairman of the parole board says he and other members will report to the Oklahoma County Jail on Thursday for processing.