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October 22, 2013

Commissioners table approval of outside legal services for sheriff following DA’s suit

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County commissioners agreed to table the approval of a contract service agreement between Cornerstone Legal Services LLC by Robert E. Christian, and the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) during a regular meeting Monday morning.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski said with board members’ approval, the sheriff’s office can seek outside legal advice. 
District Attorney Janice Steidley filed a defamation lawsuit  Wednesday against Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, Claremore police officers John Singer and Steve Cox, businessmen Russell Guilfoyle and Myron Grubowski, and Billy D. Jones, the father of two rape victims.
The six individuals brought forth a petition for a grand jury containing allegations against Steidley and three of her assistants, Rogers County Commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm, that included wire tapping, threats, false reporting of criminal activity and fraud. 
Steidley filed the lawsuit, following the dismissal of the petition on Oct. 15, due to sponsors obtaining signatures on unauthorized and unapproved signature forms.
Commissioner Thacker said he was in favor of approving outside legal advice, however, he would like to know if the county’s insurance,  Travelers, would cover attorney costs for the sheriff’s office before a decision was made.
Iski said the DA is still the county’s statutory attorney.
“Whoever the sheriff’s office chooses to hire, there will have to be a strong review of whether or not that attorney would indemnify the county for advice that he gives, that results in a judgment against the county,” said Iski. “I’m sure you can understand that it would be very dangerous for the county’s liability; in that if the attorney gave an elected official advice that resulted in a judgment against the county, it would seem logically unfair that the citizens of the county, who would pay the judgment, would have to pay a judgment for other lawyer’s advice.”
He said one of the ways it could be handled is the lawyer indemnifies the county.
“Not every occurrence of a lawsuit is covered by insurance. Travelers may want to weigh in on those instances where we are covered by insurance or any extra liability Travelers may be on the hook for,” said Iski.
The agenda item will be tabled for a week, allowing time for commissioners to speak with Travelers Insurance Company.

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