By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Several Cleveland County officials have confirmed that investigators for a multi-county grand jury are looking into the possibility that Cleveland County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan received special treatment when the state paid him nearly $20,000 for trees on his Etowah Road property.
It is not known whether the grand jury, which will meet for three days next week, will return any indictments regarding the payments to Sullivan. The grand jury’s deliberations are secret and information is only released at the conclusion of the panel’s work.
“This is being brought up three years late,” Sullivan, District 3, said Thursday. “I believe this is politically motivated.”
He said he thinks it was fueled by the other two commissioners, Rod Cleveland and Darry Stacy.
Sullivan, a Republican, faces a primary race in June from at least one other Republican seeking the nomination for the commissioner post. He has been at odds with Cleveland, District 1, over redistricting, when Sullivan’s Cleveland County area was enlarged to reach into Republican Oklahoma City.
Stacy, also a Republican, said he was not sure who the enemies are that Sullivan referenced. He said he was not fueling any investigation, although he acknowledged that he turned material over to the district attorney after it was brought to him.
“The citizens deserve, as well as I think they should demand, honesty and integrity in their elected officials. If an issue is brought to me, which it was, I immediately turned that over to the district attorney to deal with it as they see fit,” Stacy said.
Stacy, District 2, and a former Norman police officer, said he was not in office when the events transpired.
“I have no knowledge of what went on or what occurred. All I know is there were concerns and I took it to the district attorney,” he said. “I have full confidence in the criminal justice system that this will be fully vetted.
“We as elected officials have to be beyond reproach. If there is an issue or concern, we need to be transparent about it.”
Cleveland, a Republican, said Thursday that it was a case of gerrymandering by Sullivan.
The right of way payment Sullilvan received was never presented to the county commissioners for approval, even though it involved reimbursement from the state for damages to Sullivan’s private property.
The commissioner said he discussed with agents for the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation whether Assistant District Attorney David Batton had unfairly represented Sullivan before the state Department of Transportation, which administered the Etowah Road widening from 48th Avenue Southeast to 120th Avenue.
Cleveland said he didn’t know until Thursday that Sullivan had received $19,900 from the state.
Documents filed with the state Transportation Department show that Sullivan was paid to replace 21 trees on his property close to the road.
The payment included:
· $5,600 to replace five loblolly pine trees
· $6,400 to replace eight redbud trees
· $4,480 to replace seven crepe myrtles
· $960 to replace a maple tree
Sullivan also received $900 to “acquire (an) asphalt drive.”
The commissioner donated the right of way land next to Etowah Road for $1,150.
Sullivan said he, along with Batton, met with OSBI investigators, but it was a short meeting — “probably 10 minutes.”
“I think that because I won’t be a lap dog and I vote my conscience that you develop political enemies when you are doing what is right,” Sullivan said.
Conservative state Rep. Mike Reynolds, who will be term-limited this year, has been mentioned as a possible candidate running against Sullivan.
“I have been asked by several people to run,” Reynolds said, but he has yet to make a decision.
Darryl Covey, a southeast Cleveland County resident, has announced plans to run.
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