The 2009 report detailing falsified training records and special treatment for Reserve Deputy Robert Bates has taken many forms since it was created by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
Following Bates’ April 2 shooting of Eric Harris, former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz and his top officials first said no concerns had ever been expressed about Bates’ training.
Then they said Glanz wasn’t aware of the report about Bates’ training.
Then they said Glanz was aware of the report but hadn’t read it.
Then they said they couldn’t find the report.
Then they said they found it.
Then Glanz’s office wanted to know who leaked the report.
Then they fired someone for leaking it with no apparent proof he had done so.
(The Frontier first published details after we obtained the report from an anonymous source.)
Now Glanz says he never had to give it out in the first place because it was a personnel record.
Glanz and his lawyer, Scott Wood, were in court Wednesday to set a hearing date for his motion to dismiss one of two misdemeanor counts against him. (Side note: Scott Wood is paid with public funds to represent law enforcement officers in acts such as an on-duty shooting. Is the county still paying legal fees for the former sheriff for allegedly violating state law? If so, why?)
Glanz, the longest serving sheriff in state history, still enjoys a few perks of his old office.
He arrived at the courthouse Wednesday and punched in a gate code to enter a parking lot restricted to courthouse employees. Glanz was ushered in and out of the courthouse by a former sheriff’s deputy who now works as an investigator for the Tulsa DA’s office, which recused from handling Glanz’s case.
Here’s a video of him staring uncomfortably at reporters, including me, after he left his hearing.
His wife thanked the media for showing up, pointing out they could have been at the Donald Trump rally. (Deborah Glanz works for Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, a former reserve deputy who also shot a man during an arrest.)
Glanz is charged with refusal to perform official duty by directing his employees to withhold documents pertaining to Bates, a longtime friend and wealthy benefactor who shot and killed Harris during a botched gun sting.
Glanz was also charged with taking a $600 county stipend since January 2014 while using a county vehicle.
Last month, Glanz filed a motion to dismiss the count regarding the records, arguing the document “was directly related to a personnel investigation involving Reserve Deputy Robert Bates and is considered confidential” under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
Prosecutors are fighting that motion, however.
In a response filed prior to Wednesday’s hearing, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan— one of two special prosecutors in Glanz’s case — argued the Bates report is subject to the Open Records Act.
“The purpose of the report is stated in two questions on the first page of the special investigation. The first question is to determine if Reserve Deputy Robert Bates … was treated differently than other reserve deputies in the past. … Clearly the answer to this question, whatever it was, was not limited to a review of a single individual.”
For the record, the report concluded that numerous policies were violated and Bates did receive special treatment at the Sheriff’s Office. Nobody was ever disciplined, however, as a result.
The prosecutor’s motion continues: “The second question was whether or not pressure was exerted on any employees by supervisors to assist Bates in differential treatment. Clearly this question does not even deal with information related to Bates at all.”
The motion notes that Glanz doesn’t claim the report was in Bates’ personnel file. It wasn’t.
During a press conference April 20, Glanz said: “I know there’s been a lot of concern about lost records. We will provide those records as we find them.”
He also noted that “last year we went to the Legislature and got a law passed that allows us to destroy records after five years.” (The law actually says seven years, but hey, who’s counting?)
I asked Glanz at that press conference whether his office had conducted an investigation into concerns that Bates wasn’t trained for the job and whether he was given special treatment.
“There was an investigation that occurred. They found that there was no special treatment,” he replied.
Actually it was the opposite, which Glanz alludes to seven days later: “We did something about it. That is where the 13-page report came from,” he said.
To settle the dispute over whether the report was a public record, Presiding District Judge Rebecca Nightingale has set a Feb. 26 hearing to hear arguments from both sides. Prosecutors noted in court Wednesday the state plans to either present witnesses or introduce testimony given to the grand jury that indicted Glanz.
Ultimately, if the state prevails and Glanz is held responsible for withholding the report, the case may be one of the few times (or the only time) that a public official has been convicted of violating the Open Records Act in Oklahoma.
As a member of the media who routinely battles public officials dragging their feet on records requests, I hope Glanz’s case sends a clear message: No matter what you call a record, if it’s not clearly exempt under state or federal law, you should err on the side of the people who pay your salary.
Says who? Well, the law:
“As the Oklahoma Constitution recognizes and guarantees, all political power is inherent in the people. Thus, it is the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government.”