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Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members reject prosecution deal

All five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board insist they have not done anything wrong.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: February 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

All five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board refused Friday to resign, and they again denied any wrongdoing.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in January offered not to file criminal charges against board members if they agreed to resign. Board members had until 5 p.m. Friday to decide.

The prosecutor alleges the parole board members blatantly violated the Open Meeting Act over and over in their consideration of early release requests.

Board members and their attorneys said Friday they have rejected the district attorney's offer.

The board's chairman, Marc Dreyer, said Friday: “Each of us has given a great deal of thought and prayer to this decision and are each firmly convinced that we have not ever knowingly or willfully violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act nor participated in any criminal wrongdoing in our service on the board.”

Dreyer, a Tulsa minister, said: “It would be easy to step down, for the compensation is minimal, the work is overwhelming and the criticism is ample, but we believe that we are doing a service that is important and that we do it well.”

The proposed deal called for board members to leave in stages over a few months so the parole process would not be disrupted.

The deal was to be structured so that new members could be appointed and begin considering cases before all the current members left.

Charges are likely

The next likely step in the dispute is the filing of criminal charges against the board members — Dreyer; Currie Ballard, of Langston; Lynnell Harkins, of Moore; David Moore, of Edmond; and Richard L. Dugger, of Oklahoma City.

A violation of the Open Meeting Act is a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is a $500 fine and a year in jail.

“I would hope we could continue to try to address your concerns about this matter without facing criminal charges,” the board's defense attorney, Mack Martin, told the district attorney in a text message.

Dugger's attorney, John Coyle, wrote Prater in a letter: “Mr. Dugger is certainly willing to work with you to address your concerns and continues to hope that this can be accomplished in a sense of cooperation and not in an adversarial setting.”

Coyle told The Oklahoman: “These are honorable people who work hard to achieve a just result in every case.”

Prater in August complained to the parole board that he had discovered it had taken up requests for early release about 50 times since the start of 2010 without proper notice to the public.

“The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board's violations in this matter are egregious, aggravated and a clear attempt to operate in secrecy, outside of public scrutiny,” Prater wrote.

His investigators have been gathering and reviewing records for months to support the filing of possibly dozens of counts.

Sparking the district attorney's complaint was an early release request involving a killer, Maelene Chambers.

Prater found the board had voted last March, without any notice to the public, prosecutors or the victim's family, to consider her request further.

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