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Prosecutors have evidence Oklahoma parole board was cautioned in 2011

An Oklahoma assistant attorney general provided training in 2011 to the Pardon and Parole Board about the Open Meeting Act.
by Nolan Clay Published: March 11, 2013
/articleid/3764220/1/pictures/1941328">Photo - David Prater
David Prater

“And see, now, you know,” she said as board members laughed. “You're stuck.”

Prater said Friday, “We are very much aware that this training occurred and that has been a part of our investigation.”

Charges could be filed as early as this week against the board members — Marc Dreyer, of Tulsa; Currie Ballard, of Langston; Lynnell Harkins, of Moore; David Moore, of Edmond; and Richard L. Dugger, of Oklahoma City.

Prater in August complained to the parole board that it illegally took up early release requests about 50 times since the start of 2010. He complained the board hid from the public the initial consideration of these requests by describing it on agendas only as “docket modifications.”

“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.

Sparking Prater's concern was a commutation request involving a woman in prison for a drunken-driving death. Her request was put on hold after Prater complained.

Board members said they did not act in secret. They said the 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.

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

Defending the board

Martin, the board's defense attorney, said Friday that parole board members received the same training on the Open Meeting Act “that every public board member receives from the office of the attorney general.”

“Could things have been done differently or better? Absolutely,” the defense attorney said. “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 procedures followed by this board are the same ones that have been in effect since the enactment of the first Open Meeting Act laws in 1959.”

The Oklahoma attorney general's office also is investigating the parole board.

“It's ongoing. It's continuing,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Feb. 28. “We'll see where the review of the records and facts take us. … It is a different type of investigation … different in the sense that we're simply investigating generally to determine whether steps were taken under the Open Meeting Act that were inconsistent with the letter of the law.”

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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