Former DA: Fisher should recuse himself

Robert Smith

Former Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan told the Pawhuska Journal-Capital he thinks his successor, Mike Fisher, should have recused himself from handling the results of an investigative state audit of the Country Corner Fire District.

Fisher defeated Duncan by a roughly 2-1 margin last June in a hotly contested Republican primary for District 10 district attorney. In addition to personal animus, the race was marked by accusations from the Duncan camp that Fisher wasn’t a “real” Republican and responses from the Fisher camp that he has been a Republican his entire adult life, to include campaigning back in the day for Ronald Reagan.

Fisher said, in remarks the night of Feb. 20 in a meeting of the board of the Country Corner district, that he thought Duncan’s request Dec. 28 for a criminal investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was “overbroad.”

Asked to respond to that characterization, Duncan offered the following — “The scope of my request for a criminal investigation matched, verbatim, the findings of the State Auditor’s office audit. The audit was very detailed and supervised by an investigator who is also an attorney. There is nothing overly broad about the auditor’s findings, and nothing overly broad about the limited scope of my request for a criminal investigation.”

Duncan added — “Further, it is widely known around Sperry that the CCFD leaders actively campaigned for Mike Fisher, including in their uniforms and using the CCFD fire truck. Fisher’s first act should have been to recuse his office from this ongoing criminal investigation and ask the Attorney General to appoint another DA. However, it is publicly apparent he is now burying an ongoing criminal investigation of his campaign supporters. Covering up embezzlement and other illegal activities of one’s political supporters is the definition of political corruption.”

Contacted for a response, Fisher declined to be drawn into a debate in the press with Duncan. He clarified it was not his intent to deny anyone information.

Duncan suggested residents of the Country Corner district might want to ask Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to disqualify Fisher from the case.

Fisher, both in remarks Feb. 20 at a meeting of the Country Corner Fire District board and in comments Feb. 25 before the Osage County Board of Commissioners, denied that he would cover up any wrongdoing whatsoever.

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay, who is a Republican, said Monday that Osage County has invested money in the Country Corner district and he would like to know how the county’s money was used. Paslay was present at the Feb. 20 Country Corner meeting at which Fisher offered comments but did not say anything in that meeting.

Gary Lanham, a former Hominy city manager and influential figure in county Republican circles, told the commissioners he thought Fisher handled the Feb. 20 Country Corner meeting well. Lanham suggested the county’s new EMS Advisory Board might be able to play a helpful role in setting standards for fire/EMS districts.

County Assessor Ed Quinton Jr., who also attended the Feb. 20 Country Corner meeting, reminded county commissioners Monday that the Country Corner district already is generously supported with ad valorem tax dollars. He said Country Corner receives more ad valorem dollars than any other fire district in the county. Quinton’s point was to caution the commissioners about extending further financial support to Country Corner at this time.