March 14, 2013

Parole board members charged with breaking open meetings law

March 14, 2013 Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma County’s chief prosecutor filed misdemeanor charges Wednesday against all five members of the state Pardon and Parole Board that accuse them of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act.

District Attorney David Prater filed 10 counts against each board member that allege they violated the state law by conducting business not published and listed on the agenda of their meetings between May 2011 and July 2012.

The Open Meeting Act requires meetings of public bodies to be open to the public and that the public be notified of the place and time of the meetings and what action will be considered. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $500, a sentence of up to one year in the county jail or both.

In August, Prater accused members of the part-time board of operating a secret parole docket and granting early parole to certain inmates, including some who were not eligible for it.

Prater claimed that agendas prepared for various board meetings contained no notice of what the board planned to consider under agenda items called “docket modifications” and that the names of inmates they planned to consider for early parole were not made public in advance or identified anywhere on the meeting’s agenda.

In one instance cited by Prater, a woman found guilty in 2008 of manslaughter was required to serve 85 percent of her 10-year sentence, or 8 1/2 years, before she would be eligible for parole under state law. Yet the victim’s family was notified she was on the Pardon and Parole Board’s docket in July – four years before she was eligible for parole.

Members of the board – Chairman Marc Dreyer of Tulsa, Vice Chairman David Moore of Edmond, Currie Ballard of Langston, Richard L. Dugger of Oklahoma City and Lynnell Harkins of Moore – have denied wrongdoing.

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