Claremore Daily Progress

October 3, 2013

DA asks court to unseal grand jury petition names

Motion also seeks removal of judge from case

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

District Attorney Janice Steidley filed a motion Thursday requesting Grady County Judge Richard Van Dyck vacate his order sealing signatures on a citizens petition calling for a grand jury investigation of her office.

She also requested Van Dyck recuse himself from further proceedings involving the petition and the possible convening of a grand jury. She was joined in the motion by Assistant District Attorneys David Iski and Bryce Lair.
Van Dyck sealed the signatures Wednesday at the request of the sponsors or the petition drive. They claimed some of the signers feared retaliation because the targets of the petition were public officials.
DA Steidley claimed the judge acted without notifying her office about the “extraordinary sealing motion” in advance even though it was submitted by one of the petition sponsors, Claremore Police Detective John Singer, prior to the judge’s ruling.
She said the timing shows “a collaboration between Mr. Singer [Claremore Police Detective John Singer] and Judge Van Dyck before the motion to seal was filed.”
The Claremore Daily Progress received a copy of the filed motion approximately one hour prior to Van Dyck issuing the order sealing the petition signatures. It was also on file at the county clerk’s office. 
In addition to questioning the legality of the sealing procedure, DA Stiedley took issue with the judge’s reasoning for issuing his order.
She said the “purported justification for sealing the completed petitions was baseless,” and “the assertion that, without the sealing order, the signatories to the petition would be subject to ‘retaliation’ is both false and speculative.”
Van Dyck did not comment or rule on the district attorney’s motion to unseal the records and recuse himself from the case.
In a related development, The Daily Progress obtained through an open records request a video showing DA Steidley and Jenny Bentley, Rogers County Human Resources Director, entering the county courthouse after hours Wednesday.
Bentley provided Steidley access to the courthouse security office at approximately 6:50 p.m. after the building was closed to the public and without the knowledge of the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office. The video showed that DA Steidley and Bentley spent approximately two hours in the office reviewing security video of the petition sponsors filing the motion to seal the grand jury petition signatures.

See video http://youtu.be/qTPhXO9DI6g

DA Steidley was unavailable for comment. 

Oklahoma law designates the sheriff as the head of courthouse security.