Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater accused the state Pardon and Parole Board of violating state law again at two meetings Friday.
“This will be considered as further evidence in our criminal case,” the prosecutor said.
Prater began a criminal investigation of the board after learning it was bringing up inmates for early release consideration without giving any notice about their identities at that stage to the public. In an Aug. 8 letter, he wrote the board deliberately disregarded the state Open Meeting Act. No charges have been filed yet.
The board’s five part-time members and its officials deny wrongdoing.
In the first Parole Board meeting Friday, described as a continuation of a regular board meeting from earlier this month, board member Marc Dreyer voted to recommend parole for two inmates.
Dreyer was absent when the two inmates came up for parole at the regular August meeting.
He voted Friday to break ties in their cases.
The board’s agenda did not identify what inmates were being voted on Friday by Dreyer.
The prosecutor said it should have.
“It appears that the board again has taken action on an agenda item wherein there was insufficient notice of what inmates would be considered in their vote,” Prater said.
“I had two lawyers there and an investigator there, and this will become ... further evidence in our criminal case. ... It’s got to be on the agenda.”
The board’s deputy director, J.D. Daniels, said announcements were made during the regular meeting that the tie votes involving those two inmates would be resolved later.
The two inmates are James Scarpello, who is in prison on an assault conviction, and Donald D. Laster, a drug offender. The meeting over their cases lasted only about three minutes.
At the second meeting Friday, described as a special meeting, the board took up a series of recommendations from Gov. Mary Fallin about its procedures.
Prater suggests the special meeting was held illegally.
Prater said the board apparently failed to file a notice of the special meeting in time with the secretary of state’s office.
“They’re required by law to give a 48-hour notice of the meeting,” he said.
The special meeting was scheduled to start at 10:35 a.m. Friday.
The board’s attorney, Tracy George, told The Oklahoman she sent the notice in time — about 10:25 a.m. Wednesday. However, her email to the secretary of state’s office shows it was sent at 10:43 a.m. Wednesday.
George said in an email Friday evening, “It appears that, due to slow processing, the computer held the email in sending and it was not actually processed out from the computer until 10:42 a.m. We are reviewing a possible remedy for that situation.”
A willful violation of the Open Meeting Act is a misdemeanor.
The maximum punishment for each offense is a $500 fine and a year in the county jail.
AG is investigating
The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is conducting a separate investigation of the Pardon and Parole Board.
A subpoena from the state’s multicounty grand jury was used to gather records, The Oklahoman was told.
During the special meeting, the board revealed it is improving its website in an effort to better inform the public.
The improved website will be accessible in about 30 days, officials said.
Officials said they already have done many of the things the governor proposed.
Board members, however, rejected her proposal to create email accounts for them.
They said they already are overwhelmed from going over the hundreds of letters each one gets monthly and from reviewing thousands of pages of reports.
“We’re inundated,” board Chairwoman Lynnell Harkins said.