Grady County Commissioner Facing 5 More Felonies, Accused Of Firing Employees Who Worked With OSBI
Beverly Cantrell - February 18, 2022 7:09 am
GRADY COUNTY, Oklahoma – News 9
A special prosecutor charged Grady County District 1 Commissioner Michael Walker with spying on county employees who cooperated with a law enforcement investigation into alleged embezzlement, and ultimately firing them in December.
District Attorney Brian Hermanson of Kay and Noble Counties charged Walker on Tuesday with five counts including unlawful use of communication-related to audio and video recording devices, intimidation of a witness, and conspiracy.
Hermanson also charged Walker’s assistant, Neal Locke, with three felonies related to the recordings.
According to court documents, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation found Walker allegedly installed cameras and audio devices into the offices of office manager Janna Titler and foreman Jeff Autry.
Hermanson charged Walker in May with embezzlement after he admittedly authorized a roughly $30,000 improvement project for County Road 2927, a private road not maintained by the county where Walker lives. Walker has pleaded not guilty and his attorney claims the road has been previously improved by the county.
Hermanson filed both the embezzlement case and the new charges against Walker and Locke in Grady County District Court.
Bret Burns, an attorney representing both Walker and Locke, denied the new claims of witness intimidation and spying.
“Both men continue to deny guilt in the strongest possible way,” Burns wrote in an email to News 9. “To say that this video recording system was secret or illegal is an outright false allegation. The O.S.B.I. agent in charge of this case should be ashamed of herself for getting involved in an employment termination case.”
Walker, Autry, one former and one current county employee filed a civil lawsuit against Grady County in January for wrongful termination.
A county commissioner may be suspended from their position if a judge approves an application submitted by a majority of commission members.
Presiding Commissioner Ralph Beard said on Wednesday that he does not intend to take any action to suspend or remove Walker from the Board of Commissioners.
“I think there is some actions that we could take, but under the advisement of my (District Attorney, Jason Hicks), Beard said. “We’re just going to let the legal process go through the process and we’re going to see how it turns out then.”
A few hours after making the comment, Beard asked a reporter to “disregard” his comments.
News 9 asked Hicks if he, in fact, recommended to Beard that the county commission not take any action regarding Walker and the criminal allegations. In an email, Hicks replied, “This is not what was discussed.”
Because of his role as advisor to the county commission, Hicks recused himself from prosecuting Walker and Hermanson was assigned the case.
Walker’s embezzlement trial is scheduled for March. The preliminary hearing for the other five felony counts is scheduled for April.