, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 31, 2012

Top 10 area stories of 2012


— 3. Tyler Alred sentenced to church

In a story equal parts tragic, hopeful and controversial, a teenager charged with manslaughter was sentenced to church as part of his punishment.

Tyler Alred, 17, was drinking Dec. 3, 2011, when the pickup he was driving crashed, killing John Luke Dum, 16.

Alred was eventually charged as a youthful offender with manslaughter, and he pleaded guilty in August. In November, District Judge Mike Norman hit Alred with 10 years of probation, along with a litany of conditions. Some of the conditions, such as undergoing drug and alcohol assessment, and taking part in victim’s impact panels, were common. But when Norman told Alred he’d have to go to church for 10 years or be sent to prison, what had been a tragic, local story went national. Crews from across the state and nation interviewed Norman, who defended the sentence, and Alred’s attorney, Donn Baker, who said Alred attended church voluntarily.

The Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union took issue with the sentence, eventually filing a complaint against Norman. ACLU spokesman Brady Henderson said the complaint could end in the possible dismissal of Norman as a district judge. Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said he would be hesitant to revoke Alred’s probation should the teenager ever stop going to church.


2. Municipal elections

A rift regarding labor rights that began in 2011 led to the largest turnover in Muskogee City Council in more than two decades.

Candidates attributed the historic shift to public backlash that grew from the previous council’s decision to strip non-uniform employees of their collective bargaining rights.

The 2012 municipal elections produced four new city councilors, representing a 45 percent change in membership. City Clerk Pam Bates said the election of three new councilors in 1992 was next-largest turnover in recent history.

The new members were Councilors Lee Ann Langston, Ward I; Dan Hall, Ward II; Derrick Reed, Ward III; and Wayne Johnson, Ward IV. Bob Coburn, who was elected mayor in 2012, had been appointed in 2010 as a Ward I representative after a failed mayoral bid against then-Mayor John Tyler Hammons.

The new city councilors pushed through amendments to an ordinance that authorized the employee group to reorganize but was seen as unreasonably prohibitive. Once the amended ordinance passed, non-uniform employees voted overwhelmingly to reorganize, authorizing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2465 to serve as their collective bargaining agent.

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