Claremore Daily Progress

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October 17, 2013

Voice of petition signers wrongly silenced



Petitioners have asked that the behavior and practices of six public officials, three of which are elected, be scrutinized by a grand jury. Fourteen specific questions have been raised, including allegations of threats, fraud, wire tapping and false reporting of criminal activity.
Six thousand nine hundred ninety-four signatures represent a very large number. In fact it is 40 percent more signatures than would be needed to impanel a grand Jury in Tulsa County. It is 40 percent more than the number necessary to impanel a Grand Jury in Oklahoma County.
Six thousand nine hundred ninety-four signatures is a number so large that it cannot be ignored because of an uncertain legal technicality. 
Sponsors said they were not aware of the need to repeat the exact wording of the petition on each of the 600-plus signature pages.  The election board did not know it was necessary. Even the clerk of the court did not know it was necessary. 
The issue didn’t surface until last Friday when the outside attorney for petition targets District Attorney Janice Steidley and two of her assistants submitted a motion citing the technicality as the reason to reject the petition’s call for a grand jury investigation.
Oddly, the district attorney normally serves as the legal counsel for both the election board and the court clerk.  
If the case had not involved the DA’s office would Steidley’s staff  have instructed the court clerk to make sure the petition form and its individual signature pages were approved by the court? It's a question worth asking.
Whatever the case, there’s a dark cloud hanging over Rogers County. The conflict between the district attorney’s office and the county’s law enforcement community has only been intensified by the ruling to dismiss the grand jury petition and the questions it raised. 
The will of 6,944 registered voters is to put those questions before a grand jury to answer. The sooner that happens the better off everybody will be.
Bailey Dabney is publisher of the Claremore Daily Progress.

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