Claremore Daily Progress

November 5, 2013

Commissioners OK legal counsel for Sheriff

Salesha Wilken
Staff Writer


Rogers County Commissioners approved Monday outside legal counsel for the sheriff’s office.
The law firm of Gable Gotwals will be representing the sheriff’s office in all legal matters under the contract.
The request for outside legal counsel came after a conflict arose between the sheriff’s office and the District 12 District Attorney’s office after a grand jury petition was filed.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton and five other members of the community sponsored the petition, which questioned the actions of the DA’s office.
After the petition was dismissed on a technicality, DA Janice Steidley filed civil litigation naming the sheriff as a defendant, extending the conflict.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski said the statute allows the department to hire outside legal counsel.
The District Attorney has not recused or declined legal services to the sheriff’s office.
Iski said the DA’s office is “ready, willing and able” to continue their statutory duty to represent the sheriff’s office.
“The potential expense comes out of your budget and you have the money set aside to do this?,” commissioner Mike Helm asked.
The firm has multiple layers of insurance, starting with a million dollar policy and working up meeting the requirements of the county’s insurance carrier, Travelers.
Commissioners Dan DeLozier and Kirt Thacker voted to approve the contract with Helm in opposition.
The contract does not affect the board or how they conduct business, according to Thacker.
The sheriff’s office will continue to submit items to the board for approval and commissioners will continue to seek the DA’s approval before bringing the item before a vote, according to Thacker. 
Thacker said he thought it would be a positive thing for the county.
DeLozier said it would allow the sheriff’s office the opportunity to get advice on general issues.
In other business, the board denied rezoning of approximately 30 acres in Inola to be used for an RV/mobile home park.
This was the second request by the property owners; both were denied on the recommendation of Planning Commissioner Director Larry Curtis.
The board also approved the appointment of Sheila Wofford to serve on the Oologah Talala EMS District Board.
Dealing with internal county employee procedures, the board voted to document the new pay scale for county employees, allowing for room to hire   new employees at the new pay rates, according to Human Resources Director Jenny Bentley. The new pay rates are a result of recent raises approved by Thacker and Helm.