Claremore Daily Progress

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August 20, 2013

DA told to investigate old courthouse access

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County commissioners directed the district attorney Monday to launch a criminal investigation into what the chairman called unauthorized entry into the old courthouse.

No one was mentioned in the motion calling for the inquiry but chairman Kirt Thacker earlier had accused the Claremore Daily Progress of entering the building without permission.

Thacker’s accusations were prompted by an Aug. 4 story in the newspaper reporting on records — including names, addresses and Social Security numbers — left unsecured in a hallway of the open building. 

Thacker said two weeks ago he wanted the DA to look into “unauthorized entry into the old courthouse.”

In fact, Assistant Attorney David Iski was already investigating, according to county officials, including Sheriff Scott Walton.

Walton said he was asked to take an informational report of alleged trespassing on July 31, when a reporter found the records strewn about the old courthouse. Others said they’ve been interviewed or were approached by Iski to provide written statements.

Commissioners spent almost 40 minutes talking about the issue behind closed doors yesterday. They emerged to vote unanimously to ask for the investigation.

Commissioner Dan DeLozier said the board took up the matter at the request of the DA’s office.

In an interview, Walton said his department is not investigating the incident because he has determined allegations of unauthorized entry were without merit. He noted he was in direct contact with the newspaper on July 31, and “to his knowledge found nothing done by stealth or criminal intent.”

“The sheriff’s office is focused and successful at pursuing felony crimes and career criminals,” said Walton. “We are not in the business of using our resources to chase frivolous allegations of perceived wrongdoing by the media.” 

He added that the building has been easily accessible since last spring, when county offices began moving to the new courthouse across the street. The move was to be complete by July 31.

“It is common knowledge, since the building closed in April, any passerby could see people coming and going into the building — like Wal-Mart,” said Walton.

During Monday’s meeting, several citizens questioned commissioners’ timing and intentions.

They included Russell Guilfoyle, who asked the board if the DA should instead investigate who was responsible for security of the old courthouse and the records.

If an investigation shows the building was unsecured, Guilfoyle said, “I would respectfully request that you resign your positions for the security of the people of Rogers County.”

The records in the hallway were an index of people involved in cases handled by the district attorney’s office. Discovered by a reporter following up a tip, the index was composed of cards with details about those charged with crimes as well as victims — adults and juveniles.

Oklahoma law considers court records related to juvenile cases to be confidential and requires them to be sealed and secured.

To view the video from the meeting go to http://youtu.be/_j8QDQag4fI.

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