“It failed to recognize that it could not, consistent with the Sallisaw City Charter, eliminate the position of police chief at its whim,” the lawsuit states, “or transfer the duties of police chief to anyone other than the duly elected police chief.”
During a recent interview with The Oklahoman, Baker said city officials had received complaints from six or seven police officers regarding Edwards' ability to perform his duties as police chief. He said problems at the Sallisaw Police Department have “really come to a head within the last year.”
“Just in general, part of their complaints is retaliatory action taken against some of the officers … favoritism,” he said in February. “From what I'm hearing from a lot them, they've just lost confidence in the chief. Morale is very, very low.”
Recusal granted in case
Even though Edwards is charged in Sequoyah County, he is being prosecuted by Jeff Smith, district attorney of LeFlore and Latimer counties.
Sequoyah County District Attorney Brian Kuester said his office was granted a recusal by the state Attorney General's office. He said such recusals are normal when a local law enforcement official is charged with a crime.
“Just because of the close working relationship I have with Chief Edwards, as well as the officers involved,” Kuester said, “I just didn't think it would be appropriate for me to decide.”
The charge filed against Edwards shows that he could receive between a year and 10 years in prison if convicted.
The law also allows a judge to order Edwards to pay “triple the amount in money embezzled.”