Prater files charges against the state’s Pardon and Parole Board

Prater announced the filings late today.

“Every effort was made by me to resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner before the filing of the criminal information,” he said in a written statement.

He also indicated the board members were offered an opportunity to step down two at a time to allow the panel to operate with a quorum. The board rejected his offer.

The criminal charges allege the members — Lynnell Harkins of Moore, Currie Ballard of Langston, Dr. Marc Dreyer of Tulsa, Richard Dugger of Oklahoma City and David Moore of Edmond — conducted state business that hadn’t been published and noticed in the agenda of meetings in 2011.

Four of the board members face 10 separate counts of violating the Open Meeting Act. Moore is charged with nine counts.

The filing of the charges came after it was brought to Prater’s attention that the board had held allegedly secretive parole hearings on inmates. Last summer, the D.A. fired off a scathing letter to Terry Jenks, director of the Pardon and Parole Board, who stated he felt the board had complied with the Open Meetings Act.

“The business conducted included the board members discussing and voting on inmates who were being considered for early parole consideration,” continued Prater in filing today’s charges. “The Information alleges that the agenda published for the specific meetings contained no notice of the activity the board undertook during the “docket modifications” agenda item.

The charges prompted an immediate and public defense of the Pardon and Parole Board by Gov. Mary Fallin.

“Filing criminal charges against parole board members that have already worked to address Mr. Prater’s concerns will have a chilling effect on individuals interested in public service,” she said.

Fallin contends the board responded to her requests to improve communication with the public.

“In short, a problem was identified; solutions were offered; the problem is now being solved,” she said in a written statement.

The board members, Fallin said, “deserve to be treated with respect.”

She noted she has made hundreds of appointments and said the charges will leave many “in fear of being charged with a crime while making a good-faith effort to follow the law and the recommendations of their paid legal advisers.”

But Prater said the board had made critical public-safety decisions without giving citizens an opportunity to scrutinize its activity.

“In so doing,” he concluded, “the board potentially has re-victimized numerous victims and surviving family members by not giving them notice that the board was taking action that qualified the person who victimized them for early release.”

Jerry Bohnen

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