The Pardon and Parole Board has secretly hired a prominent Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney to represent the agency and its five board members while they are under investigation.
The board agreed to pay attorney Mack Martin up to $19,999 in public funds, records show.
All five board members signed the contract even though they never officially voted to hire the attorney.
Board members also never discussed at their last two public meetings anything about hiring a defense attorney.
Their latest meeting included a long progress report on the first day, Oct. 16, about efforts to make the board meetings more open and transparent.
The Oklahoma County district attorney's office and the Oklahoma attorney general's office have investigations of the parole board under way. The board already has provided thousands of records to investigators in response to two subpoenas from the state's last multicounty grand jury.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is investigating whether the board violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.
Prater began a criminal investigation after learning the board had not given any notice to the public in dozens of instances where inmates initially were considered for early release. The prosecutor could file misdemeanor charges after his investigators finish their review of documents.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt is conducting a separate investigation.
Pruitt told The Oklahoman in September: “The investigations are similar in the sense that they are focused upon whether the Pardon and Parole Board has engaged in practices that are inconsistent with the Open Meeting or Open Records laws.”
Martin is charging the board $250 an hour. His normal rate is $400 an hour. He told the board his firm will “exert our best professional efforts at all times on your behalf.”
Martin cannot be paid from public funds to continue to represent the board members if they are ever charged.