Oklahoma County's Board of County Commissioners met Wednesday morning and discussed last month’s investigatory audit of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, but ultimately voted to defer a decision until next week. The deferment means a decision regarding Sheriff John Whetsel’s tenure will not be made until after the Nov. 8 election, where Whetsel is seeking re-election for a sixth term.
During the board meeting, citizens voiced concerns about the audit showing Whetsel’s office misspent millions of dollars over the past few years.
Community members called on Commissioners Willa Johnson and Brian Maughan to petition the removal of Whetsel. Maughan motioned to remove Whetsel with suspension, but his motion was not seconded. Commissioners deferred for another week because Ray Vaughn was absent for a medical reason. Vaughn’s first deputy sat in Vaughn’s place but said he could not act on the commissioner’s behalf because he had not been specifically ordered to do so.
Prior to the final decision, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater spoke to the board about available options, including petitioning to remove the sheriff with or without his suspension.
“If you don’t do it now, I’m not sure when it might be available to ouster or remove the sheriff. Time seems to be of the essence especially regarding these citizens’ complaints,” Prater said.
Prater originally requested State Auditor Gary Jones perform an investigative audit into the sheriff’s office in March 2016.
The district attorney said his office is still gathering information pertinent to the investigation and will make a decision whether to move forward regardless of the board’s decision.
Community member Brian Anderson said he was disappointed in the board’s choice to defer the decision for another week.
"There's no reason why a simple phone call or whatever it takes right now to get a response from Commissioner Vaughn on a 'yes' or a 'no' on this issue," Anderson said.