OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said Tuesday that former County Clerk David Hooten persistently harassed her while he was still in office, prompting her to eventually call and give a detailed list of behaviors in which he could no longer engage.
Hooten resigned Friday after a Sheriff’s Office report (see at bottom) came out that detailed Hooten’s harassment of his employees and his using county employees to do work for his campaign.
Hooten is also a Republican candidate for Oklahoma State Treasurer.
First reported by News 9, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation last month into recordings of Hooten making bizarre comments to certain female members of this staff about a work trip that would involve alcohol.
Hooten supposedly had told the employees about a work training trip where “there will be alcohol involved meaning we will drink, we will do things, we will gamble, we will do a bunch of things. Some will be fun. Some will be scary.”
Some employees expressed fears of a possible “date rape” type of situation.
The Sheriff’s investigator concluded in the report, “The actions of Mr. Hooten in the workplace are not appropriate and have caused great concern and anxiety for the affected employees.”
By resigning, Hooten avoided being removed by the Board of County Commissioners in their Tuesday meeting.
He has denied all the accusations but told The Oklahoman he was resigning to end “a witch hunt that I’ve never seen the likes of” and focus on his campaign for State Treasurer.
Hooten’s employees were not the only ones to struggle with Hooten’s harassment according to Blumert.
“It happened over the course of about two years, and last year I finally called him and spoke with him and told him to stop contacting me unless it had to do with county business,” Blumert told Free Press after the meeting Tuesday. “And I listed off all the things he had done that I felt were inappropriate. And I said please stop contacting me. And he did.”
“So, I cannot go to HR, but the employees did,” Blumert told us Tuesday. “They did the right thing.”
‘Corruption in office’
In addition, the Sheriff’s report gave credibility to the accusation that Hooten had used certain staff members on the county payroll to carry out duties for his political campaign.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater found the accusations and the Sheriff’s office report credible enough to put a resolution containing specific violations by Hooten and a petition for his removal on Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners agenda. (See at bottom)
The item read:
Discussion and possible action on the District Attorney’s Petition seeking removal and interim suspension of David B. Hooten, Oklahoma County Clerk, pursuant to Section 1194 of Title 22 on grounds of Oppression in Office, Corruption in Office, and Willful Maladministration.
“Despite Mr. Hooten’s insistence that the allegations are false, I believe the women who came forward,” Blumert said in a prepared statement Friday after Prater’s item had been place on the agenda. “I am confident that Mr. Prater would not have drafted a resolution or petition based on baseless allegations.”
Procedure to replace
Hooten’s resignation letter late Friday was not dated and so took immediate effect. Action was not taken on the agenda item to remove Hooten since he had already resigned.
After the Tuesday BoCC meeting, Blumert told Free Press that she would have recused from the vote if Hooten had not resigned because the DA’s office told her they could include her testimony in the legal proceeding.
Once the resignation letter (see at bottom) was tendered to the chair of the BoCC Friday, it was then forwarded to Governor Stitt’s office requesting a special election.
At publication, Stitt has not yet set the election date.
DA Prater told the BoCC that upon receipt of the letter, the governor has 30 days to set an election to fill Hooten’s seat since the term he was in wouldn’t end until 2025.
Prater explained that until the election, the first deputy, Daniel “Danny” Lambert will be “assuming the duties of the office” until it was filled, but that he does not “fill that actual position of county clerk.”
“It is actually a vacant position until the election is held,” said Prater.
Maughan glad Hooten resigned
Free Press talked with the BoCC Chair Brian Maughan after the meeting about the circumstances.
He said that he felt like the employees were taken seriously by the commissioners and were heard.
“We certainly want them to all feel that way and no employees should be subjected to any kind of harassment,” Maughan told us.
While commissioners refrain from talking to each other outside convened meetings to avoid violations of the Open Meetings Act, Maughan said it was obvious from what had been said to the press that they all intended to vote for Hooten’s removal Tuesday had he not resigned.
“He [Hooten] certainly knew that he wasn’t going to face a pleasant meeting today and proactively resigned, and I’m glad he did,” Maughan told us.
Maughan overheard Blumert talking to us later and took advantage of their being in the presence of news media to express to her how sorry he was to learn of her being harassed by Hooten.
‘We took action’
We asked Blumert and Maughan about how this might affect their constituents’ views of and confidence in county public officials.
They both indicated that they were determined to deal with the problem.
Maughan told us that they were all “embarrassed” by Hooten’s behavior and “are frustrated that we’ve been put in this situation, period.”
He said that he thinks they responded and were prepared to “take care of it.”
“You know, we certainly didn’t expect for others to come clean up this mess,” Maughan told us. “We were getting ready to clean it up ourselves. We took action as soon as we heard about it and went through the proper investigation.”
He said that no one was prohibited from talking to investigators and that “Nobody was left out of the process who wanted to be” including Hooten.
Blumert said that she could see how events like this one might shake people’s confidence in public officials. And, she encouraged everyone to take responsibility to hold their public officials accountable.
“This is not the first time in Oklahoma politics in the last year that we’ve seen someone resign over sexual harassment or other allegations,” Blumert said. “What I tell voters is that you need to do your research on who you’re voting for, and hold those officials accountable. And, when they don’t act appropriately. You need to put pressure on them to do what happened last week. Either they step down or you follow the legal procedures to remove them.”
Last Updated June 21, 2022, 3:42 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor