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Oklahoma parole board members charged with misdemeanors

All five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board were charged Wednesday with misdemeanor violations of the state's Open Meeting Act.
by Nolan Clay Modified: March 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm •  Published: March 13, 2013

“A willful violation doesn't require malice or anything like that,” she said.

She made the point again when one board member asked, “Do you have to prove intent?” She answered, “Just willful, if you knew or should have known, and, see, now you know. You're stuck.”

Prater first complained last August to the parole board. He complained then that it illegally and secretly took up early release requests about 50 times since the start of 2010.

Sparking Prater's concern was a commutation request involving Maelene Chambers, who went to prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter for a drunken-driving death. She was not yet eligible for parole.

Her request and others were put on hold after Prater complained.

Board members said they did not act in secret. They said the docket modification step that Prater complained about only determined whether an inmate got on the docket of 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. Prosecutors and the public then could object to any early release.

Earlier offer rejected

Prater in January offered not to file criminal charges against board members if they agreed to resign. All five rejected his offer.

Prater said under his proposal board members would have stepped down two or three at a time so the parole board could continue to operate while everyone was replaced.

The board members still can serve while awaiting trial. They next meet on Tuesday. Even after a conviction, they would not have to step down, defense attorneys said.

Dreyer's attorney, Clark Brewster, said, “The policies that Mr. Prater has been complaining about have been in place for 20 years. They were in place at time when former Attorney General Susan Loving was the chair of the board. … They have been told that they're not doing anything that is illegal.”

Dugger's attorney, John Coyle, said, “Dugger has given most of his life to public service. This is not the reward that he expected.”

Fallin said she urged the board last year to make improvements because of Prater's concerns. “I am happy to say the board responded — overhauling its website and pursuing a series of changes aimed at improving transparency. In short, a problem was identified; solutions were offered; the problem is now being solved,” she said.

Board members have talked repeatedly about creating a new website and making other changes to be more transparent since last August. However, several have not occurred. The new website, for instance, still was not accessible Wednesday.

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

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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