“What they did is not a crime,” he said. “That’s my opinion, and my opinion is just as important as David Prater’s.”
But the D.A. contends he had no choice after he offered not to pursue charges if the board members would step down.
“Every effort was made by me to resolve this matter in a fair and equitable manner before the filing of the criminal information,” Prater said in a written statement.
The board, he said, conducted state business that had not been published or noticed in the agenda of meetings in 2011. Prater filed the charges after it was brought to his attention that the board — Lynnell Harkins of Moore, Currie Ballard of Langston, Marc Dreyer of Tulsa, Richard Dugger of Oklahoma City and David Moore of Edmond — allegedly held secretive parole hearings on inmates.
While Gov. Mary Fallin stopped short of saying the board was innocent, she lambasted Prater for filing the charges.
“Filing criminal charges against parole board members that have already worked to address Mr. Prater’s concerns will have a chilling effect on individuals interested in public service,” she said in a written statement.She added that the board has improved its communication with the public since the allegations surfaced.
“In short, a problem was identified; solutions were offered; the problem is now being solved,” said Fallin, adding that the board members “deserve to be treated with respect.”
The governor said she has made numerous appointments to boards and commissions, and that the charges will leave many “in fear of being charged with a crime while making a good-faith effort to follow the law and the recommendations of their paid legal advisers.”
But Prater said the board made critical public-safety decisions without giving citizens an opportunity to scrutinize its activity.
“In so doing,” he said, “the board potentially has re-victimized numerous victims and surviving family members by not giving them notice that the board was taking action that qualified the person who victimized them for early release.”
If convicted, the maximum penalty is a year in county jail and a $500 fine.
Four of the board members face 10 misdemeanor counts, alleging they violated the open meeting law for their regular meetings beginning May 23, 2011, and continuing through June and October of that year, as well as meetings held from January through July 2012.
Moore faces nine counts because he was absent for one of the meetings at issue.