Claremore Daily Progress

August 27, 2013

Thacker pledges to sign grand jury petition

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

Two county officials say they welcome the scrutiny of a grand jury sought by Sheriff Scott Walton and five other residents, while District Attorney Janice Steidley is calling the allegations raised in their petition “baseless and pathetic.”
Commission Chairman Kirt Thacker said he will sign a petition seeking to impanel a grand jury - even though he may be a target of the investigation - because it will put rumors to rest.
“I will sign the grand jury petition if it is approved by a judge,” Thacker said Tuesday afternoon.
Sheriff Walton and the others want a grand jury to investigate the actions of Thacker, Commissioner Mike Helm, Steidley and three of her assistants. In court documents filed Monday, the group raised a range of issues for scrutiny, from Thackers’ and Helms’ bidding procedures to the handling of cases by Steidley and her staff.
Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck is scheduled to rule on the petition’s validity by Thursday. He was assigned the matter by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert on Tuesday afternoon.
If the petition is ruled valid, it would clear the way for Walton and the others to start collecting the estimated 3,000 signatures of registered voter needed to convene the grand jury. There are approximately 49,000 registered voters in Rogers County.
Helm said a grand jury’s inquiry would represent the third or fourth investigation he’s been involved in, and he has been cleared each time.
“We looked at the petition,” he said. “We welcome whatever investigation needs to be done.”
Thacker said the state Bureau of Investigation has investigated bidding and related issues cited in the petition, “and found there was no criminal or unethical activity.”
“I welcome this grand jury convening if it happens,” said Thacker. “When you have nothing to hide and you are not guilty, then as the Good Book says, the truth will set you free.”
Steidley also challenged the petition, which seeks an investigation of her and three assistant district attorneys — Bryce Lair, David Iski and Timothy Wantland.
“The allegations against our office are baseless and pathetic. My office and I have done nothing more than do our jobs, and we have been transparent in doing so,” she said. 
“We will continue to do our jobs for the people of Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties, no matter the political pressure or ridiculous claims that are made.”
Joining Walton in submitting the petition were Claremore police Det. John Singer, who is suing the district attorney in federal court on grounds she sought to destroy his professional reputation; Claremore police Lt. Steve Cox; local businessmen Russell Guilfoyle and Myron Grubowski, who are frequent critics of the commissioners; and Billy D. Jones, the father of two juvenile rape victims.