Claremore Daily Progress

Government

September 1, 2013

Grand jury petition shows chasm between law officers, DA

Complaints range from corruption to lying to mishandling sex cases

CLAREMORE —

Sheriff Scott Walton and five other citizens are collecting signatures in hopes of forcing a special grand jury to investigate the actions of a half-dozen county officials, including the district attorney.
A petition filed in court by Walton’s group this past week describes an array of complaints, most targeting District Attorney Janice Steidley and three of her assistants for incidents spanning more than two years.
The petition drive — approved  by a judge Thursday — highlights the fault lines between local law enforcement and the DA’s office. It also lobs a handful of allegations at Commission Chairman Kirt Thacker and Commissioner Mike Helm.
Steidley and others named in the petition said the claims are without merit. She called its allegations “baseless” and “pathetic” and said the petition is motivated by “political assassination.”
“My office and I have done nothing more than do our jobs, and we have been transparent in doing so,” she said.
Thacker said he invites a grand jury’s scrutiny - he pledged to sign the petition himself - to put to rest allegations that he and Helm skirted state purchasing laws. Both noted the state Bureau of Investigation has reviewed and not pursued the claims against them.
Walton and the petitioners have 42 days to get 4,487 registered voters to sign onto their petition and submit those names to the county election board for verification. If that happens, a grand jury will investigate their complaints.
Others who submitted this week’s petition are Claremore Police Det. John Singer, who is suing Steidley 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 frequent critics of the commissioners; and Billy D. Jones, the father of two juvenile victims.
14 claims outlined
Sponsors of the petition have outlined 14 claims they want investigated by a grand jury. Ten involve Steidley or one of three assistants - Bryce Lair, David Iski and Tim Wantland.

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