Fresh off a decisive victory April 5, Tulsa’s first new sheriff since 1989 has wasted no time putting his mark on the office.
Vic Regalado has made some significant changes at Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, including a new undersheriff, public information officer and a financial adviser.
George Brown will become TCSO’s new Undersheriff, a position that has seen heavy upheaval since drama hit the department last year. Tim Albin served for years as undersheriff under former sheriff Stanley Glanz, but was asked to retire by Glanz in the aftermath of the Eric Harris shooting. After Albin’s resignation, Rick Weigel assumed the role of undersheriff, but gave up that title to fill the role of acting sheriff after Glanz resigned late last year.
Weigel left the department in January, retiring abruptly along with chief deputy John Bowman.
Brown was a longtime trooper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, graduating from the academy in 1997, eventually reaching the rank of Captain. He spent years as the public information officer for the OHP, and in 2015, assumed command of Troop K, which covered Osage, Pawnee, Payne, Noble and Kay counties. Monday, he said he had filed his retirement paperwork with the OHP earlier this month, and would officially join the sheriff’s office on May 1.
Brown attended Regalado’s victory party last week, and joined the new sheriff Monday at his inauguration. He said he’s excited to join the staff.
Brown said he met Regalado in 2002 in a training exercise, and the two maintained contact from there.
“I’ve known him as a tenacious investigator, a roll up your sleeves personality,” Brown said. “He’s got a great plan, a great vision.
“He said he would end patronage, and he started with me, I’m from an entirely different agency … We’ll take the best of our two former agencies and bring that to here.”
Casey Roebuck will become the head of the public information office for Regalado’s staff. She spent 10 years as a reporter at KJRH before leaving the station in 2013 to focus on motherhood. She rejoined KJRH as a reporter in 2015, then left again in December.
A graduate from Oklahoma State University, she spent a year as a producer at KWTV in Oklahoma City, then spent two years as a reporter and anchor at KLBC in Laughlin, Nev. In 2002, she moved to KLAS in Las Vegas, then to KJRH.
She said she’s known Regalado for “10 or 15 years,” and is looking forward to seeing what it’s like to work with the media. Regalado said he was lucky that Roebuck had recently retired from KJRH and was available to be hired.
“She asked the tough questions (when she was a reporter,) but she reported fairly,” he said. “She understood the dynamics of police work.”
Justin Green will remain in his present PIO duties, Regalado said. Green has served as PIO since former TCSO Maj. Shannon Clark was fired last May, and also is the office’s Reserve Deputy coordinator, a program that’s been on hiatus for nearly a year. Green attended Regalado’s inauguration Monday, as did at least two dozen other sheriff’s office employees.
Brad Johnson, the county treasurer in Washington County, has been tabbed in a financial advisory role by Regalado.
Johnson sent a letter to Washington County Commissioners April 6, announcing his retirement, according to the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. His retirement will be effective April 30, according to the paper.
“Johnson started his time with the county in 1983 when he was elected as District 1 commissioner. After that term, he worked for the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office in the county audit division. In 1992, he was appointed county election board secretary. He served in that capacity for 16 years until he ran unopposed for county treasurer in 2008,” the paper said.
Regalado said Monday that Johnson would be hired as a “part-time (Chief Financial Officer) for the embattled sheriff’s office, which has been in highly-publicized financial turmoil for years.
The myriad of money issues TCSO faces includes the fact that the department currently has no agreement with the City of Tulsa over the cost of housing the city’s inmates in the jail. The county is also defending multiple lawsuits covering use of force and jail issues, and is embroiled in the costly building of the Stanley Glanz Training Center, a facility not yet half completed and which County Commissioner Karen Keith has said “should never have been built.”
The facility is still set to be named after Glanz, despite the fact that his tenure at TCSO ended in controversy, after he was charged with two misdemeanor crimes by a grand jury last fall.
Johnson will work alongside current financial affairs officer Christina Morrison, Regalado said. Johnson said following the press conference Monday afternoon that his daughter is a Tulsa Police Department officer and that Regalado was her supervisor.
“She would tell me that he was a leader, and that he was a man of character,” Johnson said. “So when he announced his candidacy, I reached out to him to say that I could not only offer him help on the financial side, but also the county government side.”
Acting sheriff Michelle Robinette, who replaced Weigel as acting sheriff following his resignation, will return to her prior role as chief deputy, but will no longer be in charge of the jail, Regalado said. A new jail administrator will be hired at a later date.
Robinette is the only chief deputy on staff, and will remain so for the time being, Regalado said. He indicated he felt that TCSO was perhaps top heavy before (in the past, there would be two chief deputies,) and that he wanted to remove the layers that existed between deputies, the public, and the sheriff.
“Certain command staff are in charge of a multitude of very important duties and roles,” he said. “And you can’t wear that many hats and pay attention to any one thing, and that’s got to change … we want to ensure that the right people are in charge of the right things.”
Regalado said his immediate plans, other than “attending a couple meetings that I need to go to now,” include surveying the mountain of open records requests bottlenecked at the sheriff’s office. A number of media outlets have submitted and not received replies on numerous records requests since the April 2, 2015, shooting of Eric Harris.
“I want to see what’s been inside there and for how long and why,” Regalado said. “We want to work in accordance (with the Open Records Act.)”
He also said he wants to look at “open complaints” in the Internal Affairs division of TCSO.
“There’s a multitude of complaints holding over there and I want to see why,” he said.
The reserve deputy program — which Regalado called a “major priority”— is another area he said he wants to clean up immediately. The program has been suspended since May.
Earlier this year, an audit by Community Safety Institute — a Texas agency paid by Tulsa County to assess the sheriff’s office — recommended shuttering the reserve program and starting from scratch, making all reserve deputies who hoped to continue to serve in that role re-apply.
An internal audit in September found that 80 percent of the more than 100 reserve deputies had files that were deficient in some way, including many that had missing training records.
Regalado said he would meet with members of the reserve deputy program on Tuesday, and discuss the issues facing the volunteer deputies.
“There has not been any changes in their policy and procedures and that needs to change,” he said. “I want to make sure their training is up to par, and I want to clearly define what their role is going to be at the sheriff’s office from this point on.
“It’s an important part of not only the office, but of the community, but at the same time, we’ve got to ensure that there are clearly defined operational guidelines and disciplinary protocol. Discipline is a big deal, not only for the reserves but for the entire sheriff’s office … we’re no longer going to have deputies in the paper because of violations. We’re going to cut that down very quickly.”
Terry Simonson, who spent years as Glanz’s Director of Governmental Affairs, will remain on staff in that capacity, Regalado said.
“Am I going to get rid of anyone? Not at this time,” he said. “One thing I’m looking for is commitment to the office, for doing things right, and being open to change.
“Everybody gets a new chance. If none of that is followed, I would have no problem getting rid of someone.”
Regalado said another priority is to move his office to the Faulkner building. Glanz (and Weigel and Robinette) officed in the courthouse, but the CSI report was critical of the distance that existed between the sheriff and his command staff, many of whom were housed a few blocks north.
“My general counsel, PIO, Internal Affairs, undersheriff will all be next to me, now,” Regalado said. “There should not be so many layers where the sheriff has to peel back four or five layers just to find out what’s going on.”