Charges against parole board members may do more harm than good

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 15, 2013

Lynnell Harkins, a former judge.

David E. Moore, a former Secret Service agent.

This is not a typical lineup of the usual suspects in criminal activity.

We applaud the DA's diligence in taking seriously the laws that keep public meetings and records open and accessible. In fact, we applaud Prater for virtually everything he's done in office. He's been a fair and courageous prosecutor not inclined to let politics dictate his decisions. In this situation, however, Prater is wrong.

Despite changes in board procedures that have been promulgated or are under way, he demanded that Fallin start over with a new slate of members following the resignations of the incumbents. When those resignations didn't happen, he filed charges that carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $500 fine.

There is little possibility that any of the five will spend time in jail. The fine amount is trivial. But being charged with a crime takes a toll that's unwarranted in this case. Prater might argue that violating the law should take a toll and that no one should be exempt from prosecution. We don't disagree.

He might say that only the resignations or criminal convictions will hit home the message that public board members are required to conduct business transparently. If that's the argument, we disagree. The message was sent last summer. Board members got it. They began making changes that will result in a more transparent system for how parole applications are processed.

Their reward for this? Take a hike or take a perp walk! And now Ballard, Dryer, Dugger and Harkins face 10 misdemeanor counts. Moore faces nine.

Who benefits from this?

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