Claremore Daily Progress

January 1, 2014

County conflict top story of 2013

Salesha Wilken, Mark Friedel, Tom Fink, Rebecca Hattaway and Randy Cowling
Claremore Progress

CLAREMORE —

Conflict between DA’s office and law enforcement
From the very first days of 2013, the top news story of the year involved the conflict between the district attorney’s office and local law enforcement officials, a controversy that promises to highlight much of 2014 as well.
District Attorney Janice Steidley began the year challenging the credibility of statements made by Claremore police Det. John Singer in a child sex-abuse case. She said she was required to disclose the matter to the defense under the so-called Giglio rule that requires prosecutors to disclose potential impeachable testimony.
Singer contended the accusations against him were in retaliation for his criticism of Steidley’s performance in office, and he responded with a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district attorney. It is scheduled to go to trial this April.
In March, DA Steidley and her top assistants filed a libel lawsuit against the  Claremore Daily Progress, claiming it had wrongly accused them of criminal behavior. The suit followed a series of stories and columns in the paper about victims of sexual crimes.
A discrimination lawsuit filed by a former district attorney’s office investigator, Eddie Griffin, against the DA  soon followed. Griffin claims Steidley fired him after he received a head injury while detaining a suspect.  
She has denied the accusation.
By mid-summer, the building feud between the district attorney and law officers prompted Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, officer Singer and four others to launch a petition drive requesting a local grand jury investigation of Steidley, her top assistants and two county commissioners under fire for the way contracts were being awarded to outside companies.
The petitioners successfully collected more than 7,000 voter signatures, but 
Tulsa County District Judge Jefferson Sellers dismissed the petition to impanel the grand jury on the ground the sponsors used an unauthorized form to obtain the signatures. The district attorney promptly sued the petition sponsors, including Walton and Singer, for defamation because of the allegations of official misconduct contained in the original petition. 
But it didn’t take long for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to step into the fray. He announced on Oct. 18, 2013 that the state’s multi-county grand jury would investigate the allegations of wrongdoing  against the district attorney’s office and other public officials in Rogers County. 
The multicounty grand jury, which is comprised of 12 jurors chosen from each  quadrant of the state, is expected to release its findings early in 2014.
 
Mayor Mickey Perry dies from heart attack
Near the end of 2013, Claremore, Rogers County and beyond mourned the loss of veteran law officer, city mayor and lifetime goodwill ambassador Mickey Perry.
Perry died of a heart attack on Dec. 16, just hours after officiating over a Claremore City Council meeting.
Perry was elected as Claremore’s mayor April 2011, following his retirement as Chief of Police in January of the same year. Perry’s accomplishments were many, but included a recent induction to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame and the Claremore Daily Progress Progressive Citizen of the Year.
He was an active member of his community and served on numerous boards and committees but is perhaps best remembered for his pride in Claremore and his generosity and devotion to its citizens. One of his favorite activities was serving the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas luncheons held at the local Elk’s Lodge. He also was an enthusiastic organizer on behalf of “Share the Spirit” which distributes gifts and food baskets to families during the holiday season.
Perry is survived by his wife Kathy, daughter Jennifer Lewis and husband Randy, and four grandchildren, as well as innumerable coworkers, associates, and friends.
 
Economic development shows growth with new buinesses
The announcement of two hotels, a Buffalo Wild Wings, El Banquette and the constrution of a CVS Pharmacy were among the economic developments in Claremore.
In April, Rogers State University broke ground on a $4.9 million dining hall.
Also in April, Rogers County officials moved into its new courthouse.
In August, Holiday Inn Express & Suites announced it will build in Claremore at 1400 W. Country Club Lane. The hotel and conference center will include 80 rooms and a 5,000 to 6,000 conference center.
The City of Claremore, Visit Claremore and the Chamber of Commerce, along with the KT Patel family, held a groundbreaking for La Quinta Inns & Suites in November. The three-story, 70-room hotel will be located at 774 S. Lynn Riggs Blvd.
In March, Buffalo Wild Wings announced it would build a restaurant in The Market shopping center. It opened in October.
In April, Bennetts Pharmacy opened in the old Braum’s building on Lynn Riggs Road.
El Banquete Mexican Grille opened at 1331 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
In August, the widening of J. M. Davis Boulevard was completed by the City of Claremore.
In September, D.T. Specialized Services razed the Mason Center, clearing the way for a CVS Pharmacy.
The City of Claremore began investing in the realignment of Hwy. 20 in Claremore. In August, city councilors approved $273,900 for an engineering services agreement for the initial stage of the $30 million plan. In October, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation place the Hwy 20/66 connection in its 8-year plan.
In September, Pixley Lumber celebrated 50 years in business.
 
Rogers County schools get A-F grades
The Oklahoma Board of Education released A-F grades for all public schools in November. Overall grades for area school districts are Justus Tiawah, B;  Claremore, B-plus; Catoosa, C;  Oologah, B-plus; Chelsea, D; Inola,  C-plus; Sequoyah,  B-plus; Foyil, D-plus, and Verdigris B-plus.  Six Rogers County schools received an A-minus or higher, three  of them in the Claremore school district, including Stuart Roosa Elementary, Westside Elementary and Claremore High School. Other A schools in the county included Oologah-Talala High School, Sequoyah High School and Verdigris Middle School. Claremont Elementary received a C, Catalayah Elementary received a  B-minus and Will Rogers Junior High received a B. 
 
Burrage will not seek re-election, Quinn to run for Senate
Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage announced in November that he has decided not to seek another term in the Oklahoma State Senate. Although, Burrage would not have been term-limited until 2018, he said it was time to refocus his attention on his family and his legal career.
Days later, Rep. Marty Quinn announced he will run for the senate seat vacated by Burrage. Claremore City Councilor Mark Lepak also announced he will seek Quinn’s seat in the legislature.
 
County voters approve One-Cent Sales tax twice
The Rogers County Commissioners asked voters to renew a One-Cent Sales tax for roads and bridges. In May, voters overwhelmingly  approved the tax. Days later, it was discovered public notice of the election was not properly published, causing commissioners to nullify the election results.
Commissioners slated a new election in August. Voters approved the tax renewal, with 1/8 of the cent going to pay a $32.5 million judgment to Material Services Inc. The second election cost more than $25,000.
 
Rogers County officials move into new courthouse
In April, Rogers County officials began moving into the new courthouse. County officials moved from the old courthouse to the new during the last half of the month.
 
Taylor, Gordon inducted to Claremore Wall of Fame
In September, Stratton Taylor and Elizabeth Gordon inducted into the Claremore Wall of Fame at the J.M. David Arms and Historical Museum.
 
Claremore’s Patti Page dies
Grammy award winner, musical icon, and Claremore native Patti Page  passed away on Jan. 1 in Encinitas, Calif. at the age of 85. In 2010, Page was among those paid tribute with her inclusion on the inaugural “Claremore Wall of Fame” at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore.
 
Aills named RSU-TV general manager, AD Bradley leaves for Memphis
Rogers State University has named a television executive Royal Aills as general manager of RSU-TV. He began on Feb.18.
RSU Athletic Director Ryan Bradley accepted a position in the athletics department  of Memphis University in June. He has been athletics director since June 2011.
RSU announced Ryan Erwin  as the new AD during the summer. Erwin comes to RSU from Dallas Baptist University and leads a transition into NCAA Div. II.
 
District Judge Dynda Post announces retirement
District Judge Dynda Post  announced that she is retiring from the judiciary at the end of her current term.   
Judge Post serves as District Judge for Rogers, Mayes and Craig Counties, the 12th Judicial District.  Her term ends December 31, 2014, after 24 years on the bench.
 
Former Mayor Flo Guthrie dies
Former Claremore City Council member, mayor, businesswoman and longtime Claremore goodwill ambassador Flo Guthrie died in February.
 
Sheriff’s office get new police vehicles
In July, the Rogers County Sheriff’s office geared up with the purchase of 19 new police vehicles.  
The purchase comes after years of repairs to the current fleet of vehicles, averaging about 170,000.
 
Former physician’s assistant indicted for deaths of 2 at Claremore Vet Center
Former physician’s assistant indicted for deaths of two at Claremore Veterans Center. Kenneth A. Adams was indicted on two felony counts of second degree murder, two counts of caretaker neglect and one misdemeanor count of failing to initiating a medicolegal investigation by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in the death of 85-year-old Jay Minter in May 2012.