- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Criminal charges are going to be dropped against the five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board who were accused of illegally voting on inmates’ requests for early release without proper public notice, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The misdemeanor charges will be dismissed because panel members signed a one-page statement acknowledging a procedure on such requests appears to have violated the Open Meeting Act, their lawyer said in a story published Wednesday in The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/LptmVv ).

Oklahoma City defense attorney John Coyle delivered the statement on Tuesday to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

“The board was acting in good faith at the time, and believed that our actions were in accordance with the law,” the statement reads. “In retrospect, the procedure did not adequately promote the goal of insuring public notice before any action was taken by the board.

“We believe that the efforts we have undertaken to improve procedures, in conjunction with recent legislation, have advanced the goals of openness and advance notice of board action,” the statement reads.

The procedure had been in effect for 22 years, the statement said.

Coyle said the statement is part of a dismissal agreement between defense attorneys and the prosecutor.

A trial had been scheduled for last November, but it was postponed and never reset.

“With the board’s acknowledgment that their actions violated the Open Meeting Act, I anticipate a resolution of this matter in short order,” Prater said Tuesday. Prater did not return telephone calls to his office and cell phone from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Board Chairman Marc Dreyer and board members Currie Ballard, Richard Dugger and Lynnell Harkins were each charged with 10 misdemeanor counts. Board member David Moore was charged with nine misdemeanor counts.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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