I posted a lot of detail on this story just an hour or so ago, but received a telephone call from Malia Bennet, the Communications Director for the Oklahoma State Senate, so this is an update. I’ll lay this out in bulleted form for easy reading. Please refer here to my earlier post for background.
UPDATE 6:09 pm CDT: A reliable source in Oklahoma has assured me there is a different, clarifying story coming from Sheriff Colbert. I hope to have an update tonight. Stay tuned.
1) Every day the Oklahoma State Senate is in session, there is usually some group present who wants to enter the Senate gallery and visit other areas of the Capitol.
2) The honoring/welcoming of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association was not scheduled by the Senate. The Association requests a ‘Day,’ and the Senate is happy to welcome them as “heroes.”
3) Since statehood, Senate Rule 10-2 has stipulated that no one be armed, unless the Capital Chief-of-Staff is contacted and arrangements are made. Such arrangements would have been made if requested. Ms. Bennet assumes those arrangements were not made in advance. Since this was not a ‘Day’ where the Senate extended the invitation, the Chief-of-Staff probably did not have an advanced heads-up or was not asked to waive weapons in the building.
4) No Senator asked, requested or insisted that Sheriffs be removed from the Gallery until weapons were left behind according to both Ms. Bennett and a spokesman from the Chief-of-Staff’s office. When the Sgt.-at-Arms realized there were armed persons in the Gallery, he asked that they leave the Gallery, which the Sheriffs did, and according to Ms. Bennett, the Chief-of-Staff appeared and it didn’t take long to resolve the matter and get the Sheriff’s back inside for their recognition from the Senate floor.
5) Wagner County Oklahoma Sheriff Bob Colbert is definitely under the impression that a Senator complained that the guests were armed, and left the impression that the Sheriffs asked who complained, but “they wouldn’t tell us.”
5) Some Sheriffs did leave. Whether they left early or after the Chief-of-Staff sanctioned their armed presence is not known. It is not known how many left or how many re-entered the gallery. The welcome was given, it with a standing ovation (see that in my earlier post here). I contacted Sheriff Colbert’s office earlier today and left a voicemail request for a call back, which hasn’t happened as yet. UPDATE 4:27 pm – I received a call back from ‘Cathy’ in Sheriff Colbert’s office. He is out of the office today and will return my call when he returns.
6) At no time were the Sheriffs asked to leave the building, according to Malia Bennett. The Senate does not have the authority to ask anyone to leave the building. The Senate doesn’t schedule the building spaces. The Chief-of-Staff and the Sgt.-at-Arms work with the State Highway Patrol, which is the policing authority in the Capitol.
7) In my earlier post I indicated that the day the Sheriffs were at Capitol Hill, Wednesday March 12, 2014, that on that same day local police, highway patrol and other law enforcements agencies were also honored/welcomed. That is not true, although it is likely they all also have a ‘Day’ on Capitol Hill where they are received/welcomed/honored.
8) Ms. Bennett believes the incident is all a big misunderstanding. Sheriff Colbert said “everyone in the building knew we were there,” but maybe the other side is that the Chief-of-Staff did not have advance notice and a formal waiver to carry weapons was not on the record until the Sgt.-at-Arms contacted him.
8) I asked if in past years, the Sheriff’s Association had made prior arrangements for a weapons-waiver. She didn’t know but assumes that is how it must happen.
That breaks it down as simply as I can, based on the conversation with Ms. Bennett, a phone call conversation with Oklahoma State Senator Mike Mazzei’s office and an audio furnished by his office, an email from Oklahoma State Senator Randy Bass’s office, and a phone conversation with ‘Matt,’ a spokesman in the Chief-of-Staff’s office who reports to Malia Bennett. See those communications here along with a video interview of Sheriff Bob Colbert. Note that I have left a voicemail request for information from Sheriff Colbert’s office (UPDATE 4:27 pm – I received a call back from ‘Cathy’ in Sheriff Colbert’s office. He is out of the office today and will return my call when he returns) and from Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s office. (UPDATE 4:30 pm CDT 3/19/14 – Carrie from Sheriff Glanz’s office called, said he was out of the office but she confirmed that he did not attend the Oklahoma City State Capital meeting with the Sheriff’s Association.) It is maddening how many times today, between the Capitol and the various law enforcement offices, I have been transferred to someone, only to get a voicemail. Malia Bennett did return my call and ‘Matt’ in the Chief-of-Staff’s office called back with additional information.
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