Nowata County Commissioners Plan To Address Jail Problem
NOWATA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Nowata County Commissioners plan to meet Wednesday to discuss what to do next after the Sheriff resigned and most of the employees left with her. The agenda for the emergency meeting includes accepting the resignation and possibly appointing a new Sheriff.
The conflict over the office leaves the County without a functioning Sheriff’s Office for another night. A judge had a hearing Tuesday to address the closing of the County jail but issued no new orders. The next step is up to the County Commission.
Judge Carl Gibson called former sheriff Terry Sue Barnett into court, again, for the hearing but ended it leaving many courtroom observers confused about what happened. Barnett’s personal attorney, Paul DeMuro, said: “This is one of the more bizarre proceedings I can ever remember being a part of.”
The sheriff’s office has three dispatchers, but no deputies, and two jailers, but no prisoners. “Where do we go from here?” Said Burke LaRue, the District One County Commissioner. “We have no jail staff, we have no sheriff’s department. We’re at the mercy now, of I don’t know who, the highway patrol?”
Besides state Game Wardens, the only officers in the County are from police departments in Nowata and South Coffeyville. The Sheriff’s department sits idle and it’s unclear what the judge will do next. “I’m not sure what the judge thinks he was doing,” said DeMuro of Tuesday’s hearing. “No orders were issued. It was just a personal vendetta against my client, with no notice to us of what he was doing and the only evidence of any value that was developed is that the jail is unsafe.”
The jail was evacuated because of carbon monoxide, and 14 prisoners are now in Washington County. Commissioner LaRue said talks about repairs were underway - when the judge got involved. “I thought everything was going in a positive direction, and then, explosion, all of a sudden,” said LaRue, who described the current jail as a disaster. He confirmed Sheriff Barnett’s account that no substantive repairs were made in the jail since the evacuation.