OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in a narrow decision, declined to entertain the disqualification of a candidate for Tulsa County Sheriff.
Justices declined to assume jurisdiction of the case by a 5-4 ruling.
Candidate Jason Jackson had filed an emergency application with the state Supreme Court to contest the Tulsa County Election Board’s decision to allow John Fitzpatrick to remain on the special election ballot for sheriff.
Fitzpatrick emerged December 17 with his candidacy intact in a unanimous vote after a hearing in front of two of three members of the county’s election board.
The court documents filed by Jackson states the election board “erroneously determined” that Fitzpatrick is qualified to run. Jackson’s argument of Fitzpatrick being qualified hinges on whether a reserve officer is consider a peace officer under state statutes.
Fitzpatrick has been a “certified reserve officer” with the Tulsa Police Department for 10 years.
Voting in favor of the denial were Vice Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs, Joseph M. Watt, James R. Winchester, James E. Edmondson and Steven W. Taylor. Dissenting were Chief Justice John F. Reif, Yvonne J. Kauger, Tom J. Colbert and Noma D. Gurich.
The ruling was handed down late Monday afternoon without any comment, along with decisions in five other cases.
Jackson has publicly stated he believes Election Board Chairwoman Elaine Dodd and Vice Chairman George Wiland voted opposite of the legal recommendation they received.
In response Fitzpatrick said, “I am obviously very pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Both the Tulsa County Election Board and the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office had confirmed my ability to run and serve as Sheriff under Oklahoma law. The Supreme Court’s ruling confirms my place on the ballot.”
”From the beginning of these ballot challenges, we correctly predicted that my candidacy was on solid legal ground. We are equally confident that on Election Day Tulsa County voters will support the military, business and leadership experience that I offer for a stronger and better Tulsa County Sheriff’s office,” Fitzpatrick concluded.
Fitzpatrick provided the Tulsa World on January 7 with a letter he received from one of the two legal advisers who offered opinions to the election board during the hearing over the candidacy challenge. The letter states the advice given to the election board was indeed that Fitzpatrick is a qualified candidate under applicable statutes.
The state Supreme Court hearing took place January 17 in front of Greg Albert, who noted the justices could assume jurisdiction and allow or remove Fitzpatrick from the ballot. Or the justices could decline to take the case, which is what the court decided to do.
A special primary election is scheduled for March 1, 2016 with the special general election on April 5.
The candidates are running to replace longtime Sheriff Stanley Glanz who submitted his resignation effective Nov. 1, 2015, prompting the special election to fill the remainder of his term through Dec. 31, 2016.
Glanz resigned following a grand jury investigation in the wake of a deadly shooting involving Reserve Deputy Robert Bates. That grand jury investigation led to three misdemeanor indictments against the former sheriff.
You can find more information about the candidates on FortySix News Tulsa County Sheriff’s Special Election Page.
This story has been updated to include a statement from John Fitzpatrick.