Ex-com­mis­sion­ers' felonies tossed; pleas en­tered for mis­de­meanors

Rogers County in­dict­ments dis­missed pur­suant to plea agree­ments in other cases

Tulsa World - - Work&money - By Saman­tha Vicent Saman­tha Vicent 918-581-8321 saman­tha.vicent @tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @saman­thav­i­cent

A Rogers County judge has dis­missed a felony con­spir­acy case against two for­mer Rogers County com­mis­sion­ers ac­cused of try­ing to de­fraud the county while in of­fice, but both men en­tered pleas to mis­de­meanor charges in sep­a­rate but re­lated cases.

The Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral's Of­fice is­sued an in­dict­ment against Kirt Thacker in July 2015 based on a mul­ti­county grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion that im­pli­cated him and an­other com­mis­sioner, Michael Helm, in the pos­si­ble mis­use of county prop­erty.

But court records show the in­dict­ments against Thacker and Helm were dis­missed pur­suant to plea agree­ments they reached in their other cases.

Thacker on Mon­day en­tered an Al­ford plea — mean­ing he main­tains his in­no­cence but ac­knowl­edges there is suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to make a find­ing of guilt — to “ob­tain­ing a thing of value” less than $500. He was orig­i­nally ac­cused of two counts of felony em­bez­zle­ment.

Court min­utes in­di­cate Dis­trict Judge Terry McBride im­posed a six-month sus­pended jail sen­tence dur­ing which Thacker will not be un­der su­per­vised pro­ba­tion.

Helm was also charged in his other case with felony em­bez­zle­ment but pleaded guilty May 30 to ob­tain­ing prop­erty by false pre­tenses, for which McBride handed down a one-year sus­pended sen­tence and or­dered a pay­ment of $2,000 in resti­tu­tion.

Thacker Helm

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral's Of­fice moved Nov. 2 to dis­miss the con­spir­acy case against Helm based on the May plea deal. A spokesman for the agency de­clined a re­quest on Tues­day to com­ment on the res­o­lu­tion of both cases.

The grand jury be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims of wrong­do­ing in 2013 af­ter Rogers County res­i­dents took con­cerns to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral's Of­fice. The grand ju­rors de­ter­mined that Helm sold a county pickup truck bed in May 2014 to a res­i­dent while serv­ing as com­mis­sioner but that Helm did not give the county money from the trans­ac­tion.

Thacker, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, was ac­cused of or­der­ing county em­ploy­ees to use coun­ty­owned equip­ment to make im­prove­ments to his per­sonal prop­erty.

Helm's at­tor­ney, Stan Mon­roe, said Tues­day that the felony case against his client “was with­out merit,” adding that nei­ther Helm nor Thacker re­ceived any ben­e­fit in connection with the al­le­ga­tions. Mon­roe said Helm used the pro­ceeds from the truck bed sale for “var­i­ous em­ployee func­tions” rather than de­posit­ing it in the county trea­sury, which was why he opted to en­ter a plea to the mis­de­meanor.

“Mr. Helm served Rogers County very well dur­ing his ten­ure as a com­mis­sioner, and it was dis­ap­point­ing to see his ca­reer as com­mis­sioner end the way it did,” he said. “In hind­sight, there were er­rors in judg­ment, but he had no crim­i­nal in­tent.

“That said, Mr. Helm is mov­ing on with his life. To the ex­tent that the cit­i­zens of Rogers County be­lieve Com­mis­sioner Helm let them down, he does of­fer his sin­cere apol­ogy, but hopes that ev­ery­one re­al­izes he is not a crim­i­nal.”

In July 2015, other com­mis­sion­ers voted to ask the at­tor­ney gen­eral to seek Helm's re­moval from of­fice. He was sus­pended two months later fol­low­ing the grand jury's ac­cu­sa­tion, and is still fight­ing the sus­pen­sion de­spite his term ex­pir­ing at the end of 2016.

Helm is set to ap­pear Dec. 11 in Rogers County Dis­trict Court for a hear­ing on the ac­cu­sa­tion.

Thacker lost a re-elec­tion bid in 2014 and has since filed sev­eral defama­tion law­suits against Rogers County Sher­iff Scott Wal­ton, Claremore po­lice of­fi­cers and the Claremore Daily Progress news­pa­per. He con­tends he was wrongly tar­geted by the sher­iff and oth­ers be­gin­ning with a failed Oc­to­ber 2013 Rogers County grand jury pe­ti­tion, which he claims was the be­gin­ning of an ef­fort to de­stroy his per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal reputation.

The 2013 pe­ti­tion also went be­fore a mul­ti­county grand jury, which is­sued no in­dict­ments by the end of its ses­sion in Au­gust 2014. How­ever, grand ju­rors said they sup­ported con­tin­ued in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing by Thacker and Helm be­cause they did not have enough time to com­plete their in­quiry.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.