District Attorney Janice Steidley, Assistant DA David Iski and County Commissioner Kirt Thacker have demanded the city of Claremore fork over $175,000 to each of them for participation in last year’s failed citizens’ petition drive accusing them of wrongdoing.
The three county officials made the request in separate notices submitted Wednesday under the state torts claim law that allows individuals who feel they’ve been harmed by a city or other government entity to recover damages.
The city has 90 days to reject the claims or engage in negotiations for a settlement. Rejection would clear the way for the officials to file civil lawsuits against the city.
Steidley, Iski and Thacker said the city was responsible for wrongfully accusing them of crimes because it allowed Police Chief Stan Brown, Detective John Singer and other city employees to participate in the drafting and circulation of the citizens’ petition.
The county officials said the petition maliciously — and with ulterior and illicit purposes — defamed them by wrongfully accusing them of crimes. They said that was made clear by the state multicounty grand jury, which looked into the local petition’s accusations and found insufficient evidence to support indictments.
City Manager Jim Thomas indicated the city would reject the tort claims, saying they had “no merit” and “demonstrate the malice and vindictiveness of the individuals involved.”
He added: “Our Founding Fathers welcomed the right of individuals to speak out against public policy issues without fear or intimidation.”
Steidley, Iski and Thacker were contacted by email for comments but did not respond. Attorney Larry Steidley, Jr., the DA’s husband, is representing her and Thacker. Iski is represented by attorney Mark Antinoro of Pryor.
It was the second recent legal action filed by three officials over the citizens’ petition. Two days after the state grand jury concluded its investigation on Aug. 21, they submitted defamation lawsuits in Tulsa County seeking more than $10,000 in relief against Singer, his ex-wife Edith, former judge Erin Oquin and others.
“The City of Claremore was not named in those suits, nor in earlier legal complaints against law enforcement officials and other sponsors of the petition. Separately, the district attorney, and County Clerk Robin Anderson have filed defamation suits against the Claremore Daily Progress over the paper’s news coverage and editorials.
DA Steidley and commissioner Thacker were both defeated for re-election in the Republican Primary Election in June.
The citizens’ petition in the fall of 2013 called for a local grand jury investigation of the DA’s office, Thacker and County Commissioner Mike Helm.
It was signed by more than 7,000 people, but later dismissed by a judge because of unauthorized signature forms.
The petition accused Steidley and her assistant prosecutors of malfeasance, including false reporting of criminal activity, illegal wiretapping, witness tampering and threats.
Allegations against the county commissioners included bid-splitting and unauthorized public work on private property.
The multicounty grand jury found insufficient evidence to indict Steidley and the assistant DAs of a crime.
The jury said it didn’t have time to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing against commissioners Thacker and Helm, and recommended the next state grand jury take up that task.
In their tort claims, Steidley and Iski said the state grand jury found accusations against them “false and without merit” twice — in a preliminary report in May and again in its final report in August.
Thacker’s claim did not mention the multicounty grand jury reports.