The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s failed attempt this summer to stop a grand jury investigation from taking place more than $23,000, records show.
County officials in August released one invoice from McDonald, McCann, Metcalf & Carwile which totaled $12,839 for 53 hours of work. On Thursday, the sheriff’s office released a second invoice, which documented nearly 46 hours of work at a cost of $10,414.
The invoice released in August listed work the firm did between June 11-24. The invoice released Thursday listed work completed between June 25-28.
The $23,000 price tag is still not the final cost. The firm argued in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court on July 15 and was present in Tulsa County District Court through at least late July.
Meredith Baker, general counsel for TCSO, said she anticipates “more invoices from McDonald, McCann, Metcalf & Carwile.”
The firm’s efforts eventually proved futile. The grand jury began meeting in early August and has so far interviewed 24 people, including Sheriff Stanley Glanz and a number of former and current deputies.
We The People Oklahoma, a grassroots group that sprung up in Tulsa last year following a controversial police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., began the petition drive for the grand jury following the April 2 killing of Eric Harris by Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy Robert Bates.
The group eventually collected more than 6,000 verified signatures. But their efforts met with pushback from the sheriff’s office, who argued against the efforts in a number of court proceedings, eventually taking the battle all the way to the state supreme court.
Citizen groups, upset that taxpayer money was being spent to fight a taxpayer-sought grand jury investigation, attempted to speak to Tulsa County Commissioners at two public meetings, but were denied because the agendas for those meetings did not denote time for public comments.
Eventually Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith held a public forum, where more than a dozen citizens expressed concerns about the county funding Glanz’s fight. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler had recused his office from representing TCSO, but citizens asked why the sheriff’s office wouldn’t use Baker, its general counsel, or Terry Simonson, another lawyer, to argue on behalf of Glanz.
Eventually the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office offered an opinion to county commissioners that public money could be used to hire an outside firm.
Marq Lewis, who founded We The People Oklahoma, said the effort and money the sheriff’s office spent to fight the grand jury petition showed how necessary the ensuing investigation into TCSO was.
“As far as our effort, we’re happy (the grand jury) was convened, but we’re upset that the county has spent this amount of money just to …. not be transparent,” Lewis said. “This shows the sheriff’s office is hiding something. They wanted to stop this and went to whatever lengths they could to stop it. That’s unfortunate. That $20,000 could have been better spent … I think it’s a waste, it’s absolutely a waste.”
Glanz testified in front of the grand jury on Wednesday for three hours, and when he left, his attorney, Scott Wood, said he didn’t believe anything illegal had been done by the sheriff’s office.
Similar to the invoice released in August, the newly released document is largely redacted. Only one item is unredacted, one that shows John Carwile billed the county $265 for 30 minutes of writing emails and making phone calls to Laurie Phillips (We The People Oklahoma’s attorney) and District Judge Rebecca Nightingale (who oversaw the grand jury hearings.)
The contract between McDonald, McCann, Metcalf & Carwile and the County said that work done by the firm would be billed at between $165-$265 per hour.