Controversy over the continued existence of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s reserve deputy program, its financial ties and political giving associated with the elected office, has bled over into the race for the office of former Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Critics have called the program a back-door vehicle for political patronage, as political donors were sometimes rewarded with a badge and a reserve deputy appointment.
Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, elected in a special election to fill the final year of former Sherriff Glanz’s term, squared off in a debate with challenger Luke Shermanon Tuesday night over the program.
It was their first public appearance together since the Republican primary last March.
Appearing at the Tulsa County Men’s Republican Club’s “Coffee and Cookies With the Candidates” meeting at Brookside Baptist Church, Sherman questioned Regalado over the presence of a current reserve deputy who previously donated to Regalado’s campaign for sheriff.
Regalado emerged from a field of nine Republican candidates, including Sherman, on March 1 to earn the party’s nomination, then defeated Democrat Rex Berry in the special April 5 election to fill departed sheriff Stanley Glanz’s term.
Glanz resigned last year after being indicted by a grand jury following the lethal shooting of an unarmed man, Eric Harris, during an arrest involving a 74-year-old reserve deputy, Robert Bates. A jury convicted Bates in May of second-degree manslaughter for the killing.
Sherman told the crowd Tuesday that the reserve deputy’s donation is a clear violation of statements Regalado made as he ran for sheriff last spring. Regalado, at a debate in February at the Rudisill Library, told attendees that he would not accept donations from reserve deputies.
The Sheriff’s Office has not identified who the reserve deputy who donated to Regalado’s campaign is, but a review of current reserve deputies and Regalado’s campaign donations show Hastings Siegfried — a prominent Tulsa businessman — is the only name on both lists.
Donations versus experience
Questions about the reserve program, and the access reserve deputies had to Glanz, were a hot topic in the leadup to the March 1 primary. Bates was accused of using his personal relationship with the former sheriff to have access to special assignments, such as the violent crimes task force, and to circumvent the hundreds of hours of training reserves are required to undergo.
Bates also routinely donated the maximum to Glanz’s campaign for sheriff.
Regalado told the crowd that the accusation was a “non-issue,” and that two reserves had donated to his campaign, but one retired as Regalado was implementing new policies for the volunteer force. The reserve deputy program has been suspended since last May, but is close to being re-opened after Regalado’s policy changes.
The sheriff told the crowd Tuesday that he had been open to “scrapping the office,” as the taxpayer-funded Community Safety Institute report had suggested, but ultimately decided for reform rather than a restart. He said that starting the program from scratch would be equivalent to holding quality reserve deputies “responsible for the actions of a few.”
“The actions of one led to the turmoil of a lot,” Sherman countered.
After the event ended, as candidates mingled with the crowd, Regalado elaborated on the donation and why he didn’t consider Siegfried’s presence in the program a contradiction to his earlier statement. The donation, Regalado said, was made months before the primary election and months before he began to even consider changes to the reserve deputy program.
In effect, Regalado said, he didn’t think it was fair to punish the reserve for a donation made before the policy was put in place.
“One, they were a reserve before I got there, and two, they were qualified with police experience as a full-time law enforcement officer, and now as a reserve deputy,” Regalado said. “Why should they be punished? That donation occurred really, really early on, before we were even thinking about the reserves. People have a right to support who they want to. The deal is, I would love to have that same financial support from that same reserve deputy, but I’m the sheriff now.”
Regalado will face two Republicans (Sherman and Russell Crow) in the June 28th primary. Democrats Rex Berry and Arthur Jackson will square off that same day.
A runoff election is set for Aug. 23, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.
June 28 Tulsa County Elections
Michael Willis (R)
Nancy Rothman (R)
Tulsa County Court Clerk
Donald Newberry (R)
John R. Andrew (D)
Ron Phillips (R)
Mary Atkinson (R)
Tulsa County Sheriff
Russell Crow (R)
Vic Regalado (R)
Arthur Jackson (D)
Rex Berry (D)
Luke Sherman (R)
County Commissioner District 2
Karen Keith (D)
Josh R. Turley (R)
Denna Vincent (D)
Jonathan Grable (R)