The Edmond Sun

September 30, 2013

OUR VIEW: Caudill should step down

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill has apologized publicly for her actions. She takes the blame for her Sept. 17 DUI arrest and promises constituents that she will be better in the future.

In her three-page statement, Caudill writes that “The events of last Tuesday are mine to own, mine to make right, mine to never repeat. Each and every day I will stay committed to moving forward to keep my promise that this will never happen again. …”

While we believe Caudill is sincere in her apology — and it is appreciated — it still is not enough while representing both Oklahoma County and the state as a duly elected public official.

State law is very clear. Title 51, Sections 91-105 outlines why and how an elected official should be removed from their duties of public office. The definition of official misconduct includes:

• “Any willful failure or neglect to diligently and faithfully perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by the laws of this state.

• “Intoxication in any public place within the state produced by strong drink voluntarily taken.

• “Committing any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude. …”

According to an Oklahoma City Police incident report, about 8:40 p.m. Sept. 17, a car struck a parked vehicle on Northwest 79th Street between McKinley and Military in Oklahoma City and the driver kept driving. Caudill, 67, was arrested a short time later on complaints of DUI and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the police report.

Caudill is serving her fifth term as county clerk with an annual salary of $105,262. She is a member of the county’s Budget Board, which approves the county’s multi-million annual budget among other important decisions including contract decisions and personnel decisions.

While it’s true that even public officials have private lives, most of our state’s elected officials manage to keep private actions from resulting in public arrest. Since this is not Caudill’s first run-in with the law over an intoxication complaint, perhaps it’s time to pursue removing from her office if she does not voluntarily step down.

According to state statute, 15 or more reputable citizens of the county, or 1 percent of registered voters who voted in the previous election for the political subdivision of which the officer who is the subject of the complaint is an official, whichever is greater, may submit in writing to the attorney general a request to investigate the official’s actions. If the attorney general finds there is reasonable cause for such complaint, then the AG is directed by state law to institute proceedings in the Supreme Court or any district court where the accused resides to oust the officer from their elected position.

A written statement apologizing for behavior that could be interpreted as moral turpitude should be enough to make the investigation fairly succinct. Now it’s a matter of whether Caudill will do the right thing and step down or if petitions for her ouster need to be circulated.