JAY, Okla. – The Delaware County Election Board unanimously voted on Wednesday to remove candidate Edwin Turlington’s name off the Delaware County Sheriff’s election ballot.
“This is a final unappealable decision,” said District Attorney Kenny Wright after the hearing.
“My immediate plan is to research the best way to appeal (through the state court system or the federal court system) and to become very active in Delaware County Republican Party,” Turlington said in an email.
Acting sheriff James Beck contested Turlington’s name on the election ballot citing he didn’t meet the qualifications specifically the “duly certified peace officer, in a full-time capacity, for a period of four (4) years” as outlined in the state statute.
Turlington sought to have Wright dismissed from the hearing citing a pending federal lawsuit against him.
“There is no conflict, no recusal is necessary,” Wright said. “I am not part of the decision-making.”
During the hour and a half hearing, chairman Delores Burt, co-chairman Lawrence Knoles, and Election Board Secretary Crystal January heard from each candidate.
The dispute centered around Turlington’s four years of military police.
Turlington produced his Certificate of Release or Discharge and Report of Separation and Record of Service. The military records show his military police record was from November 21, 1988, to November 20, 1992.
“I’ve shown I have four years (experience),” Turlington said. “I am qualified to run for sheriff.”
Using Turlington’s campaign materials Beck questioned the former 45th Infantry Brigade soldier’s statement that he worked as a “security officer for a 4-star General overseas, protecting the General and visiting dignitaries.”
“If he worked security detail – how long did he work security detail,” Beck said in the hearing.
Working security detail would have invalidated the four years of military police requirement, Beck argued.
When questioned by Beck about how long he worked security detail, Turlington refused to answer saying, “if an Oklahoma police officer takes off for a vacation or SWAT training, he’s still a police officer even when he’s on vacation.”
Burt directly asked Turlington how long the special assignment lasted – Turlington declined to answer but eventually said “it’s unknown.”
Wright asked Turlington to estimate – Turlington responded he didn’t know.
“Specialized law enforcement training and law enforcement special assignments shouldn’t have been subtracted from my law enforcement time,” Turlington said in email sent after the hearing. “They made me a better law enforcement officer, not less.”
Prior to casting the votes, the board members said they had reservations about Turlington’s four years of service.
The statute defines a peace officer meaning “a full-time duly appointed or elected officer who is paid for working more than twenty-five (25) hours per week and whose duties are to preserve the public peace, protect life and property, prevent crime, serve warrants, and enforce state, federal or military laws and local ordinances of this state or any political subdivision thereof,”
The Delaware County Commissioners named Beck sheriff in December due to the resignation of former Sheriff Mark Berry.
Beck faces Ray Thomas in the June 28 primary election.