McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 8, 2014

Brief state headlines

Associated Press

State News — Petitions turned in calling for DHS investigation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A woman who says her special needs brother died from abuse is calling for an investigation into Oklahoma’s child welfare services.

Valerie Wood-Harber presented an electronic petition with 460,000 signatures to Gov. Mary Fallin’s office Tuesday. Wood-Harber is calling for an investigation into the agency after she made 22 unanswered calls in a span of weeks to report alleged abuse of her brother. Fifteen-year-old Quinten Wood later died of pneumonia.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Sheree Powell says in a statement the agency is investigating the death with police and others.

DHS has been plagued with problems over the years, leading to a class-action lawsuit after the death of several children under the state’s watch. Following the lawsuit, DHS announced approval of a $153 million plan to overhaul the system.

Court reinstates lawsuit over citizen challenges

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit challenging a state law that makes it more difficult for residents to sue to stop alleged government wrongdoing.

The court on Tuesday reversed an Oklahoma County judge’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit. The court reinstated the lawsuit and ruled that the taxpayers who filed it have a right to amend their petition.

The 2011 law signed by Gov. May Fallin changes the required signatures for so-called “qui tam” lawsuits from 10 taxpayers to 100 registered voters. The lawsuits are those filed by citizens in an effort to stop what’s believed to be questionable government action.

Opponents say the law makes it more difficult to expose government corruption. Supporters say it will keep small groups of disgruntled citizens from delaying government projects.

Oklahoma gov.’s tribal liaison issues first report

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Mary Fallin’s Native American liaison has issued her first report on tribal affairs in Oklahoma and says the new position is helping improve relations with tribes.

Jacque Hensley’s 18-page report on tribal outreach, health care, public safety and other state and tribal issues was released Tuesday to tribal leaders across the state.

Hensley was appointed in July 2012 to the newly created executive branch position after Fallin and the GOP-led Legislature approved a bill to abolish the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission in 2011.

Some Native American lawmakers initially voiced opposition to the plan, but officials from several tribes have since said they are pleased to be working directly with a liaison to the governor’s office.

OSBI offers $5,000 rewards in 2 unsolved homicides

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is offering two $5,000 rewards in connection with two unsolved homicides.

The rewards announced Tuesday are for information leading the arrests and convictions of those responsible for the 1991 shooting death of Michael Gabriel in Bristow and the 2013 shooting death of Paula George in Manchester.

The 24-year-old Gabriel was found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to the chest. The 49-year-old George died of a gunshot wound to the back at her home in Manchester.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown says agents have interviewed numerous people in both cases but have not been able to solve the crimes.