Attorneys for a Rogers County Commissioner are arguing that an effort to remove him from office isn't legal.
Commissioner Mike Helm is accused of embezzlement. He's been indicted and a grand jury started a process to kick him out of office. Helm is, according to the Attorney General’s Office, only delaying the process.
After years of accusations around Helm, a judge already has ordered him to stop acting as a commissioner.
Helm has been facing accusations over spending for years from residents and his fellow county commissioners.
"Mike, you spend money like a drunken sailor," another commissioner said in a meeting we attended in the past.
It was three years ago when the other commissioners started overseeing his budget because of unusual spending. After a state audit and investigation, Helm was charged with embezzlement, for selling county property and keeping the cash.
He said this after his arrest: "The court allows me to have a day in court, and I'm innocent until proven guilty."
While he's awaiting trial for embezzlement, a multi-county grand jury issued an "accusation for removal," which is the start of a legal process to take Helm out of office.
It requires a judge to have a trial, and Helm's attorneys are trying to stop it.
They argue a multi-county grand jury doesn't have jurisdiction for that.
The Attorney General's Office replies that grand juries have plain legal authority to start that process, and the AG expects the judge to overrule their argument.
Helms and his attorneys have to be in court next week for a decision on that, but in the meantime the judge essentially suspended him from office.
A court order says Helm, the defendant, can't take any personnel action, can't contact employees and can't even attend the next county commissioners meeting on Tuesday morning.
Three years ago Helms was counting on the courts.
"We have a judicial system for this that investigates things and looks into things like this,” he said.
And after years of scrutiny, his day in court is getting closer. At a Tuesday hearing, the judge will rule on the jurisdiction, and it's the first hearing on the removal. If that continues, it's essentially a trial with evidence and it takes a conviction to remove an elected commissioner from office.
4/2/2014 Related Story: State Audit Finds Numerous Problems With Rogers County Finances
4/24/2015 Related Story: Rogers County Commissioners Vote To Restrict Spending By One Of Their Own; OSBI Investigating
8/27/2015: Related Story: New Indictment Against Rogers County Commissioner