McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

April 16, 2014

Mills: 'Nothing personal' in contesting Layden's candidacy

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Pittsburg County Special District Judge Tim Mills says there’s nothing personal in his contesting the candidacy of Bill Layden, who is also a former special district judge in the county.

Both Mills and Layden have filed as candidates for the Pittsburg County associate district judge’s seat, which is  set for the June 24 Special Primary Election ballot.

A hearing to decide Layden’s contested candidacy is set for 9:30 a.m. on April 21 in Room 230, on the second floor in the Senate Wing of the state Capitol, North Hall.

Mills said his contesting the candidacy has nothing to do with how he feels about Layden.

“I really like Bill Layden; I always have. I think he’s a great guy,” Mills said. “He’s a good attorney and he was a good judge and a great guy to hang out with.

“It’s not personal,” Mill said of his contesting Layden’s candidacy for the post of associate district judge in Pittsburg County.

“It’s not professional,” Mills continued. “It’s political.”

The contest of candidacy petition signed by Mills states “Bill Layden served as Pittsburg County Special Judge and was terminated from said position after being indicted in Pittsburg County and Oklahoma County. I have reason to believe Mr. Layden was removed pending disciplinary proceedings by the OBA and AOC,” Mills’ petition states, referring to the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“That’s the basis,” Mills said Monday. “If I can’t confirm that’s what happened, I’m going to withdraw my contest.”

Also in his contest of candidacy, Mills referred to Layden’s agreement with state prosecutors from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

“To dispose of these criminal proceedings Mr. Layden entered a deferred prosecution agreement wherein he was not eligible for as public position for a minimum of one year,” Mills said in his contest of candidacy filing. “Additionally, in the state’s motion to dismiss, Layden admitted to hampering with an OSBI investigation,” Mills’ petition states.

Layden had been indicted by the Oklahoma Multicounty Grand Jury on a Pittsburg County charge accusing him of conspiracy in connection with a state investigation into the District 18 Drug Court, which covers Pittsburg and McIntosh counties.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s’ office asked that the charge be dismissed on Jan. 23, 2013 “pursuant to the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.”

The deferred prosecution agreement states that “Layden denies wrongdoing, but enters into this agreement as a compromise of disputed claims.”

Layden said last week that he thought he did a good job when he had previously served as a judge and he believes he will do a good job again.

He didn’t want to get into details of what his defense might be at the April 24 hearing in Oklahoma City or what led to his opinion that he’s a valid candidate for the post.

“I’d rather wait and get into that at the hearing,” Layden said.

“I will wait until we get this straightened out.”

Meanwhile, Mills voiced no objections to the attorney general’s office dismissing the charges against Layden.

“I’m glad for him the outcome was the way it was,” Mills said.

In the contest of candidacy petition signed by Mills, he alleges that Layden was not qualified by law to become a candidate and quotes Oklahoma law stating “No one who has been removed from judicial office pending disciplinary proceedings shall qualify to file as a candidate for judicial office.”

Mills said he wants to know if there had been pending disciplinary proceedings planned against Layden, even if they were dropped following Layden’s termination as special district judge in Pittsburg County.

Mills said his supporters have encouraged him “to at least get an answer.”

“If I can’t prove it, then I’ll withdraw my contest and we’ll have a good, old-fashioned campaign,” Mills said.

The seat for which Mills and Layden are vying is the one currently held by Associate District Judge James Bland, who was unopposed in seeking the office of District 18 district judge in Pittsburg and McIntosh counties. Bland’s set to become district judge in January 2015.

Current District 18 District Judge Thomas Bartheld did not seek re-election in June, but has said he will complete his current term, which extends through the end of this year.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.