In a formal complaint filed Wednesday at the state attorney general's office, a candidate for Oklahoma County office accused an opponent of misusing taxpayer resources.
Salome Vaughn alleges that Tim Rhodes used a state computer and network within the county court clerk's office, where he works, to conduct background investigations on her and three other candidates for office.
The two are among five Republican candidates vying for the vacant county court clerk seat in a primary election June 26.
No Democrat filed for the seat.
Vaughn said she filed the complaint in response to testimony Rhodes provided under oath at Monday's determination of candidacy hearings at the Oklahoma County Election Board.
During questioning by Vaughn's attorney, Pat Crawley, Rhodes said he “may have” used the county computer to research the backgrounds of his opponents.
“Mr. Rhodes' admission that he may have used taxpayer resources for personal gain in the political arena to research his opponents is at least an ethical violation if not a crime,” Vaughn wrote in a letter attached to her
Rhodes, who has worked as the county's chief deputy court clerk for 15 years, told The Oklahoman that while he does not remember whether or not he used his office computer to conduct the background checks, he is certain he has not violated any law or rule.
State statute forbids the use of Oklahoma Court Information System resources by any state or county employee or official for political activity.
Rhodes said he remembers researching his opponents' backgrounds from his home computer but does not recall whether he used his office computer to continue the
“Am I going to categorically deny that that may have occurred? It may or may not,” he said.
Rhodes said Vaughn's complaint is frivolous, a “vicious political ploy by someone who's angry I brought to light her criminal history.”
Vaughn's candidacy was among two Rhodes challenged unsuccessfully at Monday's hearing.
His attorney argued before the election board that guilty pleas entered by Vaughn on two misdemeanor charges of unauthorized connection to water service qualified as “involving embezzlement,” rendering her ineligible to run for the office.
State Supreme Court personnel have jurisdiction over allegations of misuse of the court information system, according to statute.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the complaint will be reviewed and, if necessary, forwarded to the court or to the state Ethics Commission for further investigation.