Prosecutors have evidence Pardon and Parole Board members were cautioned in 2011 that state law requires them to be specific on their public agendas, The Oklahoman has learned.
“Stop and think about what you would want to see,” Gay Tudor, then an assistant attorney general, told board members about their agendas. “People are going to want to know something about what's coming before you.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is preparing to file misdemeanor charges against all five parole board members for alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. His chief accusation is that the board illegally took up early release requests without proper public notice. Board members have denied wrongdoing.
“These public servants come from the most distinguished backgrounds and are of the highest integrity,” the board's defense attorney, Mack Martin, said Friday. “To accuse and prosecute them of willfully violating the Open Meeting Act is baseless and a waste of valuable resources.”
Tudor spoke to the parole board for about an hour in April 2011 about how to comply with the Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act. She said she gave similar training at other state agencies over the years upon request.
She worked at the attorney general's office from May 1, 1989, to April 30, 2011.
At the 2011 meeting, Tudor told the parole board the agenda is “a really big thing.”
“How specific do you need to be?” she said. “Enough that a person who is walking by your place … and they look at it and (say) ‘What's that? Oh, that's the agenda for the Pardon and Parole Board. Hmmm. Well, they're going to be hearing from so and so and so and so about such and such. I want to be there.' That's the theory. That there's enough there for somebody to have an idea.”
She also told board members: “We do have some sometimes who try very hard to make the agenda as nebulous as possible so that people maybe don't have an idea. Because, there are times when things are coming along that are maybe a little bit more controversial, and they don't necessarily want to alert everybody.”
The maximum punishment for violating the Open Meeting Act is a year in the county jail and a $500 fine.
To get a conviction, prosecutors must prove the Open Meeting Act was “willfully” violated.
Aware of training
Prosecutors are expected to argue board members ignored the assistant attorney general's advice about their agendas. Prosecutors are expected to argue that is proof the board members willfully violated the law.
Tudor specifically told the parole board during the 2011 training session that prosecutors can prove a violation is willful “if you knew or should have known and you didn't do it right.”