The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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December 30, 2013

Special Report: Actions by Fallin’s staff led to weakened state justice reforms

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

By November, Steele was pushing for the JRI group to begin the selection process for a coordinator for JRI. In a Nov. 8 email, Frazier told Mullins, Chief of Staff Northrup and Secretary of State Glenn Coffee that “I think we will be forced to weigh in on this in the next couple of weeks.”

Steele had hoped to select a coordinator by Dec. 12, according to the emails. He asked Fallin’s staff to decide whether the coordinator would be housed in the governor’s office.

In mid-November, Frazier emailed Northrup that Mullins would be meeting with then-House Speaker-elect Shannon “to see what direction JRI will take in January.”

On Jan. 9, 2013, the JRI group voted, 5-1, to name as coordinator Sarah Brune Edwards, an attorney with the law firm Crowe & Dunlevy who had worked on pardon and parole issues under Gov. Brad Henry. Frazier was the only dissenting vote.

Steele said the governor’s office had favored a former district attorney, Craig Corgan, who recently told Oklahoma Watch that he had been referred for the position by Mullins.

Mullins explained that the governor’s office wanted a coordinator who could manage both the initiative’s political issues and the grant money.

“We thought she (Edwards) was fine, but we thought there were better candidates,” he said.

Two days after Fallin’s choice was rejected, Frazier emailed Mullins pointing out that in order for the coordinator position to be funded by the federal grant, the money would have to pass through a state agency. “If all of the agencies refuse funds, there will be no way to pass through the coordinator funding,” Frazier wrote.

Mullins replied, “Maybe we want to take a new tack.” He offered this language, in an apparent reference to automatic federal budget cuts: “In light of recent attention to targeted budgeted decisions by the federal government, this is not the time for the State to be requesting federal dollars in an expectation of future partnership commitments. … Therefore, Oklahoma is withdrawing its request for an (sic) JRI implementation grant from the United States Department of Justice.’”

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