Pardon and Parole Board Member Says Staff Issue with Former Director Was Racial and Sexist Language

Aug 10, 2020

Turbulent times continue at the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

Former Executive Director Steven Bickley resigned, effective Friday, following a dispute with board member and retired judge Allen McCall over the board’s ability to consider commutation requests from death row inmates. McCall threatened Bickley with a grand jury investigation, and he followed that up by telling the board last month he knew of issues agency staff had with Bickley.

McCall publicly specified Monday those were instances of derogatory language directed at staff.

"For statements to be made of racial and sexist — demeaning to our female employees — that’s absolutely, 100% unacceptable, and I will not stand for it, now or ever," McCall said.

McCall also speculated the problem was more widespread than staff reports indicated.

"We got six or seven letters — and I think there’s probably eight or 10 more people out there that were afraid to send them in — but this guy had some serious issues over the last eight or 10 months. Now, everything he did wasn’t bad. He did some good things. I agree with that," McCall said.

In an emailed statement, Bickley said, "Oklahoma will continue to struggle with inefficient, bloated bureaucracy when unsubstantiated slander is the tactic used to avoid discussing differing perspectives on life-altering policies."

The board did not discuss the allegations further on Monday, saying it would be inappropriate before a full investigation. Members Kelly Doyle and Larry Morris did bring up the need for an anonymous channel for employees to report problems.

"I think that we need to set something like that up and then create a culture where people feel like they can speak out," Doyle said.

"Part of the problem is that we have no contact as a board we have no contact with our staff. And I don’t know if we need to schedule quarterly meetings with the staff," Morris said.

The allegations came up as the board considered a resolution to thank Bickley for his service. McCall and Morris opposed it as presented, and it was rejected.