Click the link to see the Grand Jury Petition http://oologahonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/grand-jury-petition.pdf
Until now, political infighting pitting the city of Claremore against Rogers County and a Claremore police investigator against the District Attorney has been rough on the players but had little real impact on average citizens.
That changed dramatically Monday when a grand jury petition was filed by six county residents led by the Claremore investigator, John Singer, and Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.
The mere filing, which asks for the right to seek the 4,486 valid signatures of registered voters needed to convene a grand jury, calls the ability of the sheriff to file criminal charges into question because he seeks ouster, criminal charges or both against the DA and three top assistants.
All judges in the 12th Judicial District have disqualified themselves from even touching the petition because of the potential conflict of interest.
The petition also seeks criminal charges against two of the three county commissioners—at a time when budgets for all county agencies including the Sheriff’s office are still being considered.
And while Commission Chairman Kirt Thacker has made it clear that he wants peace, harmony and public officials whose first priority is serving the public, it is difficult to imagine how the sheriff’s budget will benefit from his grand jury quest.
In fact, despite being longtime supporters of the sheriff, we have to ask:
Has Scott Walton taken leave of his senses?
The other five petitioners are well-known foes of the District Attorney, her key assistants, and/or Commissioners Thacker and Mike Helm. None, however, are elected officials.
Sheriff Walton, however, has created the unseemly specter of an elected official who can’t wait for an election just 14 months away.
The whole mess raises numerous questions:
Is Walton acting as a private citizen or an elected official? His media appearances suggest it is the latter.
Did Walton alert his deputies about what was coming?
Do Walton, Singer and the Claremore police sergeant who signed the petition plan to solicit signatures in uniform and wearing their side arms? Do they plan to recruit others to do the same? If so, that is a truly frightening thought for the citizens of this county.
Did Walton make arrangements for getting the cases they handle—from public intoxication to first degree murder—into court? We can find no precedent for this situation, but right now we’re not certain whether anyone in the DA’s office could file a case for the Sheriff, or whether any judge would accept it.
The petition not only targets the District Attorney, it targets her first assistant, her chief prosecutor, and her civil assistant whose job is advising county officials on non-criminal matters.
Were public funds used in preparing the grand jury petition? If so, that is certainly a fair question for the commissioners and Excise Board to ask during budget proceedings. If Walton gets his grand jury, we think it will be a fair question for that body, too.
Speaking of grand juries, does Walton understand that once empanelled, the jurors are not limited to items in the petition? Grand juries have been known to turn on those who created them.
And does he understand that as a petitioner, he is liable under state law for any libelous or slanderous allegations it contains if an “ulterior motive” is behind it? What we have now are allegations. Does he understand the risk he is taking if any evidence doesn’t prove persuasive to the grand jurors?
Walton’s action makes no sense, but we can’t see an exit strategy.
In politics and government, the judicious use of dynamite has its place.
But tossing a lighted stick in a keg full of the stuff and discovering there’s no place to run can have awfully bad consequences.