Undersheriff Rick Weigel vowed during a press conference Wednesday to be a “change agent” to restore stability at the embattled Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
He declined to answer questions about deaths and medical care in the jail or about drug thefts from the sheriff’s property room, other than to confirm an internal investigation is underway.
“Whenever I took the position of undersheriff … I met with all of our employees and our supervisors and I explained to them that I would be what you would consider a change agent,” Weigel said.
“And the cultural change that takes place, it’s not going to take place in three months, four months, five months. What I am hoping is what I start here, the new sheriff will continue on so that this change will actually take place.”
Who that new sheriff will be is unknown. Several contenders have emerged and Weigel said that for now, his mind is focused on implementing changes recommended by the grand jury. The filing period for the office is in December, with a primary March 1 and a general election (if needed) April 5.
Weigel said he has started making improvements based on the eight recommendations of the Tulsa County grand jury that recently concluded its work. However he said he is waiting for a report by an outside group commissioned by the county before making other changes.
The grand jury was impaneled to investigate the April 2 shooting of Eric Harris during a gun sting, Glanz’s reserve deputy program and related issues.
The grand jury indicted Glanz on two misdemeanor counts: willful violation of the law related to his use of a county vehicle while collecting a $600 monthly auto stipend and refusal to perform official duty. That misdemeanor count alleges he failed to abide by the state Open Records Act by refusing to turn over a 2009 internal affairs report related to reserve deputy Robert Bates, who shot Harris.
Following his indictment, Glanz said he would resign Nov. 1. However, Weigel said he has assumed all duties and responsibilities of the sheriff, without the pay or title. He said running for sheriff “is certainly a consideration.”
“Right now my sole focus is on these eight recommendations and getting them implemented.”
The grand jury met for more than 20 days, interviewing more than 30 people. Aside from indicting Glanz, the grand jury provided the sheriff’s office with a list of recommendations, most of which centered around documentation and storing records.
The first recommendation the grand jury listed was simply that TCSO adhere to its own policies “closely and uniformly.”
Records show the sheriff’s office under Glanz frequently ignored its own policies, such as allowing Maj. Tom Huckeby to supervise his son, Michael, while on the drug task force. Both are now gone from the department, part of the wave of forced resignations and departures in the wake of Harris’ shooting.
When asked during the press conference whether the shakeup among top-level sheriff’s employees would continue, Weigel shook his head no.
Last week, rumors emerged that well-respected Chief Deputy John Bowman was mulling retirement but Weigel said Bowman was staying on staff.
“Everything is done,” he said of the staff moves. “We are moving forward into the future.”
Weigel addressed how he plans to rebuild trust with the public, including a grass-roots group of citizens called We The People Oklahoma who circulated the grand jury petition. He said he understands it will take time for the office to rebuild trust it has lost with some in the public.
“Everybody gets lip service, OK? I don’t expect you to believe me. … My actions are going to tell you that this is more than lip service.”
Weigel said he planned to improve transparency at the sheriff’s office, holding more frequent press conferences and releasing information to the public about policy changes in the works. He said he had assigned deputies to give him “action plans” of how to enact the eight grand jury recommendations.
He said that when he gets the action plans from those deputies, they will immediately be given to the media for dissemination to the public.
Weigel served with the Tulsa Police Department from 1972 to 2007 before joining the sheriff’s office.
Much of the controversy plaguing Glanz’s office stemmed from his reserve program, which some critics said allowed wealthy supporters to “buy a badge.” Reserve deputies included attorney Reuben Davis, who handled some of the agency’s legal work; real estate developer Paul Coury; David Stone, owner of Dong’s guns; and Dan Witham, chairman of the committee that oversees the jail tax.
Though he was in his 70s and lacked the proper training, Bates was allowed to serve on an undercover drug task force. Bates also donated cars and expensive equipment to Glanz’s office, was a longtime friend of the sheriff’s and managed his re-election campaign.
In September, the sheriff’s office released an audit of its reserve deputy program showing that 91 of the 112 reserve deputies on staff had training files that were deficient in some way. Since then, about a dozen reserve deputies have resigned.
The reserve deputy program was suspended in May, and remains inactive, despite the audit’s completion. Weigel said he was awaiting the results of an outside review before putting the reserves back in service.
In July, County Commissioners signed a deal with Texas-based Community Safety Institute to review the sheriff’s office. Weigel said he was wary of implementing too many changes before that review was complete, though he had not received notice from CSI on when the report will be finished.
When the contract was signed in July, county employees said they believed it would be no earlier than December before the review would be complete. Weigel did note that CSI had moved on from the investigatory portion of the review, and had begun its analysis phase.
Weigel said before the report is finalized, a group of sheriffs from other states will review CSI’s recommendations.
Glanz is listed as a board member of the National Sheriff’s Association on the group’s website. However Terry Simonson, director of governmental affairs at the sheriff’s office, said the group of sheriffs who review the CSI report will not be related to the association.