A 2005 memo written by Grady County Sheriff Kieran McMullen in which he instructed deputies to “have no cooperative contact” with members of a drug task force continues to raise questions as a field of seven candidates for sheriff heads toward the July 29 Primary Election.

In the past month, McMullen sparred with District Attorney Brett Burns over the directive during a preliminary hearing in the case of the State of Oklahoma vs. William David Hibbdon on drug and weapons charges and Art Kell, a Republican candidate for Sheriff, tried to bring up the memo at a recent “town hall” style sheriff’s debate at the Best Western Inn.

Kell, during his chance to respond to a question, presented a manila folder that contained a copy of a memo written in March 2005 by McMullen.

“I pulled out the memo because McMullen had emphasized how important relationships are in the previous answer he gave. But the memo directly contradicts that statement and shows how he ‘does’ business with other agencies. But, for some reason Bob didn’t let it in. And well, the people ought to be able to know what goes on in the sheriff’s office,” said Kell.

The mediator of the event, Bob Martin, interrupted Kell, when he raised the document to show the crowd, swiftly saying, “We all agreed that personal issues wouldn’t be discussed prior to the debate.”

After the debate, Martin said, “I don’t know why he tried to pull that, when we had agreed not to bring up topics like that.”

Kell, in an attempt to release the information to the voters, said, “Well, I guess what I am trying to say is, that as your sheriff, I will work with other agencies and I won’t put out memos saying that,” after Martin had prevented him from elaborating on the topic.

In an interview after the debate, Sheriff McMullen said, “If my memory is correct, I attempted to explain how the memo was time sensitive and there is more that goes with that situation than people realize. Had the question or comment been allowed in, I would have been open to discussing it. But Bob didn’t allow it.”

“The type of forum really wasn’t a debate anyway, it was a question and answer session. There is more to it though,” added McMullen.

In a more recent interview on July 3, 2008, McMullen was asked why he wrote the memo in question and he responded by saying, “First off, whoever released the memo violated policy. That document was generated in the spring of 2005. In January of 2005, that year, the sheriff’s office and the FBI did a large sweep at 7 a.m., all cocaine busts. There were eight houses total; five were brought down by the FBI, two by the sheriff’s office, and one by District 6 Drug Task Force. We had been training for this for months.

District 6 Task Force was invited to several training classes and chose not to participate in the training. The morning of the raids, my patrol captain and I had a discussion that we had concerns about District 6 not having come to the training secessions.”

McMullen continued, “The morning of the raids, the five (raids) the FBI did, no problems. The two the sheriff’s office did, no problems. The only problem was done by District 6, at that one there was a fatality. I wasn’t present; I can’t say what went right and what went wrong. I mean, they may have done everything absolutely perfect, but anytime something like that happens you have to question it. And knowing they didn’t participate in our training though, they may have done their own.”

When asked how the fatality was the fault of District 6, McMullen said, “As it turns out, it very much was the fault of the suspect, the suspect is the one that died, he ate the cocaine. He ran out the backdoor and got tased. But since it was the only one (house/bust) that had a problem, I had some concerns about had there been adequate training and good decision-making skills? And there were some other tiffs between the sheriff’s office and District 6.”

When asked to elaborate on the other “tiffs,” he gave an example of a separate drug bust where a vehicle and some money were seized. The Assistant District Attorney at the time instructed the sheriff’s office to forfeit the vehicle over to the Chickasha Police Department because they had made a special request for the car. “There was some squabbling over who got what and who got how much of what with forfeitures,” McMullen said.

In this situation, the Chickasha Police Department received the vehicle and the stereo was missing from the dash. The Assistant D.A. instructed McMullen to return the stereo to the CPD.

A memo from June 29, 2005 from the hand of Assistant D.A Bret Burns, currently the District Attorney, stated, “(Former Deputy) Brian Layton has now advised me he took the radio out of the floorboard of the vehicle to prevent other deputies from stealing it. He advises he did this because he was mad at the District Attorney’s office and the Chickasha Police Department over the division of seized assets.”

The district attorney then advised the sheriff’s office to turn the stereo back over to the CPD. Later in the memo, it references a stolen lawnmower from a forfeited drug bust that was being used at the home of Layton, as well as, a computer that was illegally seized in a separate drug bust by McMullen.

Investigator Dusty Dowdle of District 6 Drug Task Force said, “That is preposterous, the fact that our department didn’t have enough training, when my guys and I have years of proper training and a good track record. District 6 was just honored by the Oklahoma State Legislature for merit and outstanding results. And if you look back at that particular drug bust the sheriff is referencing, his department even had a deputy present.”

After further investigation into the matter, it has been determined, that the FBI, CPD, District 6, and the sheriff’s department all had at least one officer present on the fatality bust.

Dowdle then said, “I can’t believe he would try to say something like that. After I saw a copy of the memo, I was worried for the safety of my guys and my own safety. I didn’t know if one day my officers may need back up, and the sheriff’s department may not respond. So, I confronted the sheriff and asked him why he wrote the memo and if I had anything to worry about when it came to the safety of the task force.”

In a recorded conversation with the sheriff, Dowdle asked him these questions and the sheriff responded by bringing up a grant that typically was split between the CPD and the sheriff’s department. However, one year the sheriff wanted a higher cut of the grant money to purchase another vehicle and Chief Lynn Williams said, “I felt the request was unjustified due to the fact the amount of money awarded is derived from a statistic generated on the CPD’s Type 1 crime arrests and not the sheriff’s office stats.”

Williams then asked the D.A’s office if they would split the grant instead at the normal percentages and the D.A. agreed. The item was entered as agenda item one on the March 14, 2005 Grady County Commissioners meeting where it was accepted and signed off on.

McMullen explains how the grant process works to Dowdle and at the end of the explanation he added, “because if you do a lousy job the FEDs give you money and if you do a good job the FEDs don’t give you any money. So you want to do a lousy job. On paper.”

McMullen then said, “He’s (Lynn Williams) going to back door me with Burns over $8,000. It’s not right.”

Dowdle said, “I still don’t understand how that ties into you writing this memo about the District 6 Task Force.”

“In all honesty, here’s how it comes back to the Task Force. I was pissed out of my mind on Friday and that’s how it comes back to the task force. I was hot at Burns and the chief,” said McMullen.

“At that point I didn’t want to have anything to do with the D.A’s office, or the task force, inside, outside, backwards, nor upside down. …I’m not trying to take it out on you, but I honestly believe they screwed my guys. They can not like me all they want, but when they impact my guys, that means somebody with a 250,000-mile car will not be able get one. Because Bret Burns and Lynn Williams backdoored this deal and um so you’re screwing with my guys and that pisses me off. But if you guys need help or anything at all we’ll do it,” added McMullen.

The Express-Star approached McMullen about the contradicting recording for a response when McMullen replied, “Well I guess I forgot about that, but yes, I do recall that incident making me angry and I may have said I wrote the memo because of it, but I can’t recall.”

When asked about the “stolen and illegally seized “computer and lawnmower” McMullen said, “We can discuss those issues after I talk to (Former Deputy) Brian Layton.”

McMullen is running for re-election with a September trial on felony charges related to alleged gambling at the Elks Lodge looming. A misdemeanor count against the sheriff was dropped last week.

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