Claremore Daily Progress

August 29, 2013

Judge clears way for grand jury petition drive

Sponsors have 45 days to collect 4,487 signatures

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

A state judge Thursday approved the citizens petition authored by Sheriff Scott Walton and five others for a grand jury investigation of county commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm, and District Attorney Janice Steidley and three of her assistants.

The order was issued by Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck, giving the green light for the petition sponsors to start collecting the 4,487 registered voter signatures needed to convene the grand jury.

They have 45 days to get the signatures and submit them to the Rogers County Election Board for verification.  If they succeed, a grand jury will convene within 30 days to begin inquiry into the issues of corruption and other wrongdoing raised in the petition.

Judge Van Dyck concluded the petition contained “a reasonably specific identification of areas to be inquired into; and the face of the petition contains sufficient general allegations to warrant a find such inquiry may lead to information which, if true, would warrant a true bill of indictment or action of removal.”

Van Dyck was assigned to review the legality of the citizens petition by the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court  because the presiding judge of the Rogers County District Court, Dwayne Steidley,  is the first-cousin of DA Steidley’s husband.

In addition to the commissioners and DA Steidley, the petition targets Assistant District Attorneys Bryce Lair, David Iski and Tim Wantland. 

Joining Sheriff Walton in sponsoring the petition for a grand jury investigation were Claremore police Det. John Singer, who has sued the district attorney in federal court on grounds she sought to destroy his professional reputation; Claremore police Lt. Steve Cox; local businessmen Russell Guilfoyle and Myron Grubowski, who are critics of the commissioners; and Billy D. Jones, the father of two juvenile rape victims.

The petition sponsors said they will begin gathering signatures immediately. They said a meeting of the group is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Lynn Riggs Gazebo Park and members of the public are invited to attend.

DA Steidley has characterized the allegations against her in the petition as “baseless and pathetic.” She also said the petition drive is politically motivated.