Citing unsafe jail conditions and judge's order, sheriff resigns along with her deputies
An Oklahoma sheriff who battled with a judge over what she thinks to be dangerous jail conditions announced her resignation Monday.
But Sheriff Terry Barnett of Nowata County is not the only one resigning, report the Tulsa World, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Also turning in their resignations were the undersheriff, five deputies and most of the jail staff.
Barnett said she did not want to abide by Judge Carl Gibson’s order to reopen the jail, even though he had threatened her with contempt. Undersheriff Mark Kirschner cited the contempt threat when he explained his own decision to resign.
“This job is not worth me going to jail,” Kirschner said. “I have a family to take care of.”
Barnett had moved the inmates to a different county Feb. 28 after a carbon monoxide leak sent four of her employees to the emergency room. The cause has not been found.
But that is not the only unsafe condition at the jail, Barnett said. Inmates have been shocked by exposed wires in showers and throughout the jail. Mold is throughout the facility. Methane gas sometimes permeates the jail because of improper plumbing. A mandated fire alarm system is not in place. In one instance, a snake fell on an inmate’s head when a door was opened.
Barnett was elected in November after the incumbent was accused of misappropriating at least 90 lunchboxes donated for schools to use as handouts in his re-election campaign. Barnett had previously worked for the Tulsa Police Department for more than two decades.
An interim sheriff was sworn in Wednesday, the Tulsa World reports. She is Mirta Hallett, who had retired from the sheriff’s department less than four years ago. Hallett said she wouldn’t reopen the jail until she has proper documentation showing it is safe.