- Associated Press - Friday, June 12, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Some signatures on a petition calling for a grand jury investigation into alleged misconduct at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office could have been illegally gathered because organizers of the drive advertised free food to would-be signees, the agency claimed Friday.

We the People Oklahoma, the civil rights group collecting the signatures, acknowledged that free food was advertised on a flier this week. But the group said no laws were broken because the food - hot dogs and bottled water - was at a table away from the area where signatures were being collected. It’s a misdemeanor to offer anything of value to influence a person to sign a petition.

Marq Lewis, an organizer with the group, said the food was available to anyone, including some 20 volunteers with the drive and people who walked away without signing. He called the criticism by the Sheriff’s Office “petty.”

“Mind you, we’re talking about hot dogs, ketchup, mustard and bottled water,” Lewis said. “(The Sheriff’s Office is) doing nothing but driving our numbers up.

“They are really desperate at this point” he said.

The petition asks a grand jury to investigate whether Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz neglected his duties and whether reserve deputies who gave donations to the sheriff were given special treatment. The drive began after a volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed man on April 2 and a leaked 2009 memo that raised concerns about the reserve deputy’s training.

Robert Bates, the volunteer deputy who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris, is a friend of Glanz. Bates donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Terry Simonson said signing the petition was “the only reason” people would come to the booth.

“It’s clear to any reasonable person that the whole purpose of the free food is to induce people to do something they might not do otherwise,” Simonson said, adding that his office has not filed a formal complaint against the group.

The civil rights group said this week it had collected more than 6,000 signatures from registered Tulsa County voters - 1,000 more than needed under state law. Lewis expects to submit the signatures next week to be certified.

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