By Andy Rieger
The Moore American
MOORE — Monday’s Cleveland County Board of Commissioners meeting turned into a tag-team match that saw District 3’s Rusty Sullivan stripped of his chairmanship and fellow Republican commissioners call for his resignation or removal from office.
The action Monday follows Thursday’s multi-county grand jury report that accused Sullivan of improperly accepting $19,900 in tree, shrub and fence damages from the county’s widening of Etowah Road in Noble where he resides.
“This is a political thing,” Sullivan said following the meeting. “This has always been about politics.”
Sullivan, 61, who has served nearly two terms, did not comment on the proceedings. He said he plans to file for re-election April 9. He said he will not resign or repay the money that was for replacement of trees on his property. An estimated 85 parcel owners along Etowah Road were paid damages when the road was widened.
In 2010, county officials contracted with a third party to acquire the property and another company to appraise the level of damages. Former Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Dave Batton contacted property owners on the $6.3 million road project.
At least two Republican candidates have been mentioned as challengers to the District 3 seat. They include Darryl Covey and state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. Former state Sen. Cal Hobson said he plans to file for the post as a Democrat.
After the brief meeting, Sullivan declined to answer other questions about the grand jury’s report due to the secrecy requirement placed on him. No charges were filed or recommended by the Attorney General’s office, which said there was probable cause that a misdemeanor violation occurred, but Sullivan’s action was reported more than three years after the events occurred.
Sullivan was elected chairman in January. The board traditionally elects a chairman in January and in July, the beginning of the fiscal year.
Sullivan made a motion to nominate Rod Cleveland but that failed to get a second. District 1 Commissioner Rod Cleveland, after a reading some of the grand jury’s findings, nominated Darry Stacy. The vote passed 3-0. Cleveland was elected vice-chairman.
Stacy, reading from a prepared statement at the end of the meeting, called for Sullivan’s resignation. Barring that action, he said he would ask that the process of removing Sullivan from office start. He quoted the grand jury’s report that, “Sullivan used his position of power to take advantage of the parcel owners affected by the Etowah Road Project and the Board of County Commissioners.”
After the meeting, Stacy said that could be accomplished through the grand jury, the Attorney General, District Attorney Greg Mashburn, who earlier recused himself from the issue, or by an outside DA assigned as a special prosecutor in the case.
In other action Monday, commissioners:
— Heard from a property owner along Etowah Road who said she has not been compensated for her lost trees.
— Declined to establish a burn ban for the county.
— Opened bids on a District 1 traffic stripe project.
— Approved agreements with the Bureau of Land Management.
— Approved a contract with AT&T for telephone lines at the fairgrounds.