Claremore Daily Progress

Our View

June 21, 2014

DA primary election crucial

CLAREMORE —

Tuesday’s Republican Primary for District Attorney of Rogers, Craig and Mayes counties is, by far, the most critical race on the ballot. The prolonged clash between the DA’s office and local law enforcement agencies has disrupted the once harmonious local justice system.
The solution is a fresh start. And the person best qualified to bring that about is Claremore City Attorney Matt Ballard. His performance in office and as a candidate has demonstrated a clear-eyed understanding of the conflict, and how to mend it.
Other GOP candidates in the race are incumbent Janice Steidley and former special District Judge Erin Oquin. Both have waged campaigns that speak to their experience but, also, to why they would not be right for the job at hand.
Steidley has made the DA’s office ground zero in the conflict with police authorities. It got so bad at one point that nine law enforcement agencies requested an inquiry of her office due to dissatisfaction with the handling of criminal cases.
More than 7,000 Rogers County citizens later signed a petition for a local grand jury investigation. A judge nullified the signatures on technical grounds but the petition’s concerns were quickly taken up by the state multicounty grand jury.
The grand jury’s preliminary report said there was insufficient evidence to bring indictments against Steidley and her assistants on nine criminal accusations contained in the petition. But jurors also found that Steidley “at times displayed poor judgment and unprofessional behavior,” contributing to dysfunction between law enforcement officials and the DA’s office - dysfunction  jurors  determined  “ harmful to the residents” of Rogers County.
Oquin was also the subject of a controversy, though not one that reached the level of the district attorney-law enforcement conflict. She unceremoniously lost her job last August after 10 years on the bench. The judges of the Northeast Administrative District of Oklahoma gave no reason for removing her. But statements that she intended to run for district attorney several months before the filing deadline doubtless contributed to the decision. 

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