Claremore Daily Progress

October 11, 2013

Grand Jury reassigned to Tulsa County judge

Salesha Wilken
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE —

The Oklahoma Supreme Court reassigned the pending Rogers County Grand Jury investigation today to Tulsa County Judge Jefferson D. Sellers.

The request comes after Attorney Joel Wholgemuth requested the recusal of Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck.

Wholgemuth represents District Attorney Janice Steidley and her assistants Bryce Lair and David Iski.

The DA’s have filed several motions in the case, each challenging Judge Van Dyck’s rulings.

The latest motion was filed this week requesting the Supreme Court reassign the judge to one who “will follow the law so as to provide due process.”

Vice Chief Justice John F. Reif signed the order, and six other justices concurred. Chief Justice Tom Colbert and Joseph Watt did not vote.

The Rogers County Election Board certified 6,994 petition signatures to impanel the grand jury exceeding the 4,487 required by statute.

Judge Sellers will now oversee a hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse to determine if the petition signatures meet legal requirements to impanel a grand jury. If valid the judge will request a jury be summoned and set the date for the grand jury to convene.

A jury pool of roughly 350 Rogers County citizens will be selected by random process using information supplied by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

The judge conducts interviews and makes a determination to qualify or disqualify.

There will be no defense attorneys to question or eliminate a juror; Judge Sellers alone will decide the jury pool and select the foreman.

The petition outlines 14 claims to be investigated by a grand jury.

Ten involve Steidley or one of three assistants — Bryce Lair, David Iski and Tim Wantland.

While the petition focuses heavily on the actions of Steidley and her staff, it also includes charges that Rogers County Commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm dodged state purchasing laws when they bought $100,000 worth of equipment, materials and services without issuing bids. It claims the officials received gifts and dinners from some of the companies involved.

In addition, it charges Helm with receiving campaign donations from companies doing business with Rogers County.