- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A current and a former Rogers County commissioner were indicted Thursday on charges of embezzlement and conspiracy by a multicounty grand jury, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.

Rogers County Commissioner Michael Helm and former County Commissioner Kirt Thacker each were charged with conspiracy for allegedly selecting a contractor to perform highway improvements without following public bidding procedures. Helm also was charged with embezzlement for allegedly selling scrap metal without accounting for the proceeds.

Thacker was charged earlier this year with two counts of embezzlement for allegedly using county employees and equipment to make improvements to his personal property; that case is pending in Rogers County. Thacker’s attorney did not immediately respond to a telephone message left after hours at his law office.

Reached by telephone late Thursday, Helm said he was unaware of the charges but he followed the legal advice of the county’s district attorney in both matters. He said he was confident he would be exonerated.

“I went through my (district attorney) on both of them,” Helm said. “I have nothing to hide. I didn’t lawyer up or anything.”

The multicounty grand jury began investigating allegations of wrongdoing in 2013 after county citizens successfully petitioned with more than 8,000 signatures from local residents.

“The citizens of Rogers County, who first raised these issues, can have confidence their concerns have been considered, and that officials in whom they placed trust to administer county government will be held accountable for their unlawful actions,” Pruitt said in a statement.

If convicted, Thacker and Helm could face up to 15 years in prison.

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