Jerry Massie, Public Information Officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, has confirmed that the investigations conducted by the DOC on City of Altus employees that were reported in Wednesday's edition of the Altus Times was a deciding factor in the decision to move the female inmates out of the Altus work center. Massie said that even though long-term economic reasons play a part, "The list was a factor in the decision on this."
On Aug. 10, a list of investigations conducted by the Department of Corrections on City of Altus employees, was released by Justin Jones, DOC Director to State Representative Charles Ortega. There have been 17 allegations of violations, 16 of which the DOC has concluded their investigations.Those investigations cover allegations of procedural violations by City employees involving the female DOC offenders, from 2001 to July of this year.
In an interview Wednesday with the Altus Times, Altus Mayor T.L. Gramling said that this was the first time he had seen this list, and said that he had been told by DOC representatives that the move was because of economic reasons. Massie told the Altus Times Wednesday afternoon that Mayor Gramling had been told by Justin Jones, Director of the DOC, that this move was an "economic situation," but that the discussion with Gramling had taken place shortly before Ortega had requested the list of investigations.
The DOC came to Altus in May to conduct training for City employees that would be working with the female offenders. The DOC had also offered the City another work center contract, but the City failed to sign it. Mayor Gramling said the contract had some things the City wanted modified, so instead of signing the new contract, they are still operating under the terms of the old contract.
In July, two more incidents involving City employees and DOC inmates occurred. After that point, the DOC then made the decision to move the female DOC offenders. It is now up to the City Council to decide whether the City will accept a new contract for male inmates in Altus.
The allegations against the City employees range from seemingly insignificant things to the general public, like buying someone a soft drink, to admitting to having sexual relations with an inmate. Peggy Risinger, City Council member attended the latest DOC training and remarked at the Democrat Women's meeting earlier this week that, "the DOC requirements are very strict." Risinger said that a small act of kindness, such as buying a soda can later be misconstrued.
Council member Perry Shelton said, "Altus has some great employees who have worked with DOC workers and have not violated the contractural agreement. At the same time, most of the DOC workers have been diligent in keeping themselves free from infractions. It is unfortunate that a few city employees and a few DOC workers have consciously violated the rules, regulations, and law. When the female inmates are pulled from Altus, we the City Leadership and DOC Leadership have failed."
According to the Department of Corrections report, 14 of the 35 Altus City employees that were investigated were found to have no procedural violations. The City of Altus has not released the names of the employees investigated that still work for the City. The Times has asked for this list so they can compare names of current employees to those employees named in the DOC investigtion. However, Mayor Gramling did say many of those on the list are no longer employed by the City.
The 21 City employees cited in the report include:
• Seven employees who allegedly were violating procedures by "purchasing items for offenders".
• Three people who were found to have allegedly violated procedures by "accepting money from inmates and purchasing unauthorized items for them."
• One person who allegedly "provided cigarettes and soda to offenders".
• One person who allegedly "provided offenders with coin money if the offenders did not have enough money to purchase tobacco."
• Five people who allegedly had a "personal relationship" with an inmate.
• One person who allegedly had "inappropriate behavior that was substantiated".
• Two people who "admitted to sexual intercourse with female offenders".
One person was charged by Altus Police Department for two counts of "Solicitation of an act of lewdness." He was given a one-year suspended sentence.