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Oklahoma parole board members appear in court

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members accused of violating the state's Open Meetings law, turned themselves in Thursday and are free on $5,000 bail each. They were fingerprinted and photographed at the Oklahoma County jail.
by Nolan Clay Modified: March 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm •  Published: March 15, 2013

Coyle said the sheriff's employees at the jail were gracious and respectful during the booking process, which took less than an hour.

About the charges

District Attorney David Prater alleges in the charges that the board members illegally voted on inmates' requests for early release without proper public notice.

He specifically alleges they violated the law by describing hearings on such requests as a “docket modification” on their agendas.

He alleges four board members willfully violated the law 10 times after receiving training on the Open Meeting Act in April 2011. He alleges Moore willfully violated the law nine times.

The board acted in a way “designed to hide potentially unpopular actions … from the citizens it serves,” Prater said in a news release Wednesday.

Board members have said they did not act in secret and that a docket modification only determined if an inmate would be put on the docket for a future meeting.

Board officials said the name of any inmate who made it on to a future docket would appear on the board's website, and the public would be informed then.

Defending action

Last Friday, the board's defense attorney, Mack Martin, said, “Could things have been done differently or better? Absolutely. And, in all honesty, changes have been made to improve notice to the public. On the other hand, was the law broken? Absolutely not.”

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

Ballard lives in Coyle, Dreyer lives in Broken Arrow, Dugger and Harkins live in Oklahoma City, and Moore lives in Edmond, prosecutors said.

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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