With Tulsa’s acting sheriff and chief deputy stepping down on Tuesday, jail and courthouse administrator Michelle Robinette will begin assuming the duties of sheriff this week.
Chief Deputy John Bowman told The Frontier that he and Undersheriff Rick Weigel resigned on Tuesday to “spend more time with their families.” Bowman said he will use up his remaining vacation days and that his final day on county payroll will be Feb. 23.
Weigel, Bowman said, will use two weeks of vacation before officially leaving office.
Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette will be in charge until a new sheriff is elected on April 5. It’s believed that Robinette is the first female sheriff or acting sheriff in the department’s history.
A primary is scheduled in March.
Nine Republicans and one Democrat are running for the office.
Bowman, who has been with TCSO for nine years, said he had planned to leave in October but stayed at Weigel’s request. Weigel has been functioning as sheriff since former Sheriff Stanley Glanz resigned after he was indicted on two counts following a grand jury investigation into corruption in his office.
“Our goal was to provide some stability and try to restore some confidence,” Bowman said. “Selfishly or not, I think we’ve made some inroads.”
Bowman said the office is “kind of in a holding pattern” until an election for sheriff in March.
“We were going to get into a position where we were in a maintenance position here in a week or two. We’re not talking about whether he stays or goes; it’s a matter of a few weeks.”
Sources told The Frontier that a meeting was held Sunday between County Commissioner John Smaligo, Weigel, Bowman and other county officials to discuss funding for the Stanley Glanz Training Center, which is under construction. It has been unclear how the county will come up with funds to complete the project, which was touted as a regional law enforcement training center.
That discussion reportedly veered into other topics and eventually became heated, sources said, ending in Weigel saying he would submit his resignation by the end of the week. Sources told The Frontier that sheriff’s office employees were informed Tuesday that they will not be getting longevity pay, which has been canceled indefinitely this year. Longevity pay is additional salary given to employees based on years of service.
Bowman confirmed that Weigel cancelled plans to give sheriff’s employees a one-time payment based on longevity at the sheriff’s office. He said Weigel made that decision after county officials raised concerns about whether sufficient funds would be available to run the jail this year.
Bowman said work on the training center has also been put on hold until the financial picture becomes more clear.
“The outside is finished so there’s no problem with doing that now,” he said.
Weigel has taken the fallout over the grand jury indictments “to heart,” Bowman said. The undersheriff has worked hard to make improvements recommended by the grand jury, he said.
“His family would like to have him back,” Bowman said.
Weigel has discussed his plans with Robinette, who told him “she’s ready to emphasize our core services and keep it on a steady course and be ready to turn it over to a new sheriff.”
Marq Lewis, the leader of a grassroots group that sought the grand jury investigation which ultimately led to Glanz’s ouster said he is looking forward to working with Robinette. Lewis and a few members of his group met with Weigel twice last year in closed-door meetings where the two sides discussed a lengthy set of recommendations for changes within the sheriff’s office.
“He’s been very hospitable and very respectful,” Lewis said. “He’s been willing to listen, to take in our concerns. We knew he was just biding his time there, but at least they opened the door. The question is will the door remain open with Michelle Robinette.”
Lewis said Robinette attended the second meeting the group had with Weigel, and due to her background at the jail, the grassroots group directed a number of questions to her.
“We talked to her a lot, because she was at the jail, and running the jail when there were a bunch of deaths,” Lewis said. “But we’re willing to continue working with her. I don’t look at this as a step backwards.”
Lewis credited Weigel and Bowman with “opening the door” to an improved relationship between TCSO and the public, and said he hopes the positive momentum continues with Robinette.
Robinette has been at the sheriff’s office since 1995. She has seen a variety of positions in the last two years — she was in charge of jail operations, then transferred to the courthouse after jail duties were handed over to then-Maj. Shannon Clark.
When Clark was fired last year, Robinette was again placed in charge of the jail.
Also on Tuesday, sheriff’s office officials confirmed that Sgt. Mark Stevens, a training supervisor, had been placed on leave. Officials would not discuss the reason for the personnel action involving Stevens, who supervises training for jail employees.