Article 8: Jan. 20, 2022
Sheriff regularly breaking law now
By Chris Willingham
Seventh in a series
As of Wednesday afternoon, the sheriff’s department had taken 77 crime reports so far this month.
As part of the Oklahoma Open Records Act, the newspaper and anyone can view any report taken or/and investigated by an officer at any time by request, during normal business hours, according to OS 51-24A.5.
When Gazette reporter Chris Willingham began examining reports, as he routinely does, he noticed there were 77 reports for the month listed on a cover sheet, but only 24 available to read in the binder of reports.
Willingham questioned sheriff Kevin Clardy about the 53 missing reports Monday, saying he needed to see those 53 reports. Clardy apologized, but said Willingham could not see those reports or any report now or in the future if the report concerned a juvenile or domestic violence victim.
The sheriff said that was part of the policy the sheriff’s department has to comply with in order to keep the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant, which is what provides employment funding for Captain of All Officers Alicia Manning as domestic violence investigator.
Willingham had copies of state statutes concerning the Open Records Act with him and showed Clardy state law saying the records must be available during normal business hours upon request.
“Well, this is the deal signed by the county commissioners and we have to comply,” he responded.
Clardy said the department had just reapplied for the grant, which funds Manning’s salary and duty equipment.
The binder containing reports has a coversheet, which shows all reports investigated for the month, along with the officer’s name on the case and the crime alleged.
Of the 53 reports not seen or reported on by this newspaper this month, several of the crimes listed include a shooting, a rape, an elementary school teacher being unknowingly given marijuana cookies by a student and a deputy allegedly shooting out the tires of a SUV Tuesday afternoon on SH 37 during a pursuit.
Clardy gave a copy of the statutory requirement to comply with confidentiality and privacy provisions of the VAWA grant, which does say the department shall not release any personal information collected about victims as part of Manning’s grant.
The sheriff cited that paperwork as the reason the department could not release any report concerning a juvenile or domestic violence victim. It was signed by County Commissioner Chairman Jimmy Westbrook on Dec. 16, 2021.
However, in section C of the policy, it clearly says the grant policy does not supersede state statutory requirements or court mandates.
In those cases, the policy states, the agency will follow such statutes and mandates, but makes reasonable attempts to provide the victim notice of the information release.
The newspaper disagreed with Clardy and said state law required the release of the reports, but Clardy said the department had to comply with the grant policy in order to keep the grant.
“That’s the way it’s been for the last three years. Idabel (Police Department) has to do that, too, because they’re on the same grant.
It’s part of the VAWA deal. We just applied for the grant again and we have to restrict information to get it. The VAWA people brought that to my attention again the other day,” he said.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of civil liability on me and anyone who publishes this. I just don’t wanna get caught up in a lot of civil liability. I would love to release it, but we have to comply to keep our grant,” Clardy said.
Court records show that some attorneys in criminal cases are also alleging that the sheriff’s department is not supplying records, as required under the Open Records Act.
This is at least the second time the sheriff has openly and willfully violated the law. The newspaper reported a few years ago that Clardy and some deputies were illegally working another job in another county and using sheriff’s department vehicles for personal use to go back and forth to that job.
They even had a work calendar posted at the sheriff’s department.
District Attorney Mark Matloff recused from that case, the Oklahoma attorney referred the case to another DA, and nothing ever happened.
The newspaper has asked the DA’s office to investigate these alleged Open Records Act violations, punishable by up to a $500 fine and up to one year in jail upon conviction.
The newspaper is also currently interviewing multiple attorneys about their allegations that some of the evidence they have received from the sheriff’s department in criminal cases, specifically in cases worked by Alicia Manning, has been altered.