Payne County Election Board secretary resigns

Thursday, September 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- Payne County Election Board Secretary Bernice Mitchell pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of destroying public records and was given a one-year deferred sentence.

As part of a plea bargain, she agreed to resign her post and pay $894.40 in restitution to the Payne County Election Board and to pay court costs.

The resignation is effective at 5 p.m. Friday. After one year, Mitchell can apply to have her case dismissed and expunged.

The felony charge carried a maximum sentence of five years.

Court records showed Mitchell altered, falsified and destroyed records such as election ballots and related legal documents involving the Perkins freeholder election April 4. She allegedly used a photocopier and other means to alter signatures and document material to make it appear the ballots in the election conformed with those submitted to her office for the election.

Mitchell released a statement apologizing to Perkins and Payne County residents.

"By allowing myself to be mentally and physically stressed with the pressure from the numerous elections (29) conducted within two months, I made a mistake and for that I am truly sorry," she said.

"I did not give my undivided attention to all the details as it deserved. In responding to a request, I did what was expedient rather than prudent."

District Attorney Mark Gibson, who was appointed to handle the case, said the plea agreement was fair to everyone.

The allegations of altered documents for the freeholder election came out during an April hearing requested by Mel Miller, who ran for a post in Ward 3. He said voters weren't properly advised that they could only vote in their ward.

Election documents filed after the April 4 election apparently show altered signatures of Perkins Mayor Randy Hall and City Clerk Larry Moorman.