candidate forums
Members of the OKC Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 123, listen during a forum between Oklahoma County district attorney candidates Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (Michael Duncan)

Sometimes the world gets to spinning so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the interesting headlines being generated, even if you work in the news business.

Here at NonDoc, we occasionally filter out a few notable news nuggets and compile them — maybe with a sprinkling of original reporting — as a single post.

With a thousand things happening around the turn of the year, here are eight news items that you might have missed.

SCOTUS denial: McGirt not retroactive in some cases

state and tribal leaders
In April, the Oklahoma Media Center launched a collaborative reporting project called The Promised Land: A Supreme Court decision places Oklahoma at a crossroads. (NonDoc)

On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court posted that it had declined to hear three of the many McGirt-related cases that have been appealed to the court.

Notable among the three is Parish v. Oklahoma, which raised the question of whether the historic 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma — which affirmed the Muscogee Reservation and said only the Muscogee Nation and federal government have jurisdiction over major crimes involving tribal citizens on the reservation — applied retroactively. (An Oklahoma appellate court applied the McGirt decision to Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Quapaw reservations as well.)

Clifton Parish, a Choctaw citizen, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2012 for a killing committed on Choctaw land, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction in 2014.

In August 2020, Parish successfully argued in the District Court of Pushmataha County that his sentence should be vacated because the state did not have jurisdiction to prosecute under McGirt. The Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that decision in August 2021, saying that McGirt amounted to “a new rule of criminal procedure” and therefore did not apply retroactively to a case in which a final conviction had been reached. 

The other two cases the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear — concerning appeals by Gary Compelleebee and Keith E. Davis — had similarly asked for retroactive application of McGirt and were denied by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on the same grounds in September 2021.

There are still a number of McGirt-related cases on the Supreme Court’s schedule in the coming weeks. The main one to watch is Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, in which the state is asking for the Court to reverse the McGirt decision entirely. The next list of cases the court has decided to hear is expected to come out next week.

Norman FOP holds mayoral forum

One month out from Norman’s mayoral and City Council elections, the Norman Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 122 held a candidate forum Friday for those seeking the office of mayor. Four of the five candidates attended and answered questions, while incumbent Mayor Breea Clark did not.

A recording of the candidate forum — which featured candidates Bob Thompson, Nicole Kish, Larry Heikkila and Alice Stephenson-Leuck — can be found in two parts, here and here, with the second video featuring the bulk of the forum after the hosts restarted the stream to improve audio quality.

The Norman municipal election is set for Tuesday, Feb. 8. If no mayoral candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will head to an April runoff.

The Norman Transcript is scheduled to host a candidate forum for mayoral and City Council hopefuls on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

OKC FOP not endorsing DA candidate, for now

Oklahoma County DA candidates
OKC FOP Vice President Mark Nelson moderates a forum between Oklahoma County district attorney candidates Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. From left to right, the candidates are: Kevin Calvey, Jacqui Ford, Gayland Gieger and Robert Gray. (Michael Duncan)

Speaking of Fraternal Order of Police candidate forums, the Oklahoma City FOP, Lodge 123 hosted a forum Nov. 30 for Oklahoma County district attorney candidates in which a difference of opinion arose over whether it’s appropriate for a DA candidate to pledge to dismiss charges on a pending prosecution without first reviewing the available evidence. County Commissioner Kevin Calvey said he would dismiss the manslaughter charges against five OKCPD officers who shot 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez in December 2020. Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger said such a pledge was inappropriate without first reviewing all evidence in the case.

Two weeks later, at a Dec. 13 meeting, OKC FOP members met and considered whether to endorse any candidate in the Oklahoma County DA race.

“A motion to endorse Gieger was made and failed to pass as it did not have enough support,” Mark Nelson, new OKC FOP president, told NonDoc recently.

No OKC FOP member made a motion to endorse Calvey or either of the other two declared candidates, Jacqui Ford and Robert Gray. The OKC FOP membership could decide to endorse a candidate later in 2022.

Oklahoma Tax Commission gets new director

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has its second new director under Gov. Kevin Stitt, with former Paycom executive Doug Linehan hired by the agency’s three commissioners last week.

Linehan fills a void left when Jay Doyle departed OTC last summer to oversee the state’s Real ID implementation. In 2019, before Doyle took the reins at the OTC, the Stitt administration had voiced displeasure with the agency’s operations and particularly its lack of follow-through on a 2018 recommendation by the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission, which estimated that the state was leaving as much as $287 million on the table in uncollected tax obligations.

That disagreement and others ultimately led to the departure of longtime OTC director Tony Mastin, who is now of counsel at the law firm McAfee & Taft.

But Doyle’s tenure as Mastin’s successor featured further internal drama, with Stitt eventually moving Doyle to the Real ID task force.

An Oklahoma State University graduate, Linehan’s most recent professional position was with Paycom as director of tax operations from May 2019 through February 2021. Prior to working at Paycom, he worked for six months for the mining materials company Moly-Cop. The bulk of his career was spent with Deloitte, where he worked for nearly eight years, and ConAgra Foods, where he spent 17 years.

OSU business school charging $350 for NIL course

In an announcement that puts a new twist on the longstanding inequities of unpaid labor that underlie the big business that is collegiate athletics, Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business instructors — who are state employees — are seeking enrollees for a Feb. 15 and 16 course “aimed at helping college athletes get the most out of lucrative Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) opportunities.”

According to the OSU business school’s press release, the cost of the four-hour virtual course is $350, which is reduced to $300 if three or more people register at once. The course does not provide academic credit for OSU student athletes, who are left to ask themselves whether paying $350 up front for the chance to learn about how they might make money in the future is a good investment.

“This program brings together experts from four different areas to provide attendees with answers to some of the most pressing questions about how schools should be navigating the new name, image and likeness landscape,” said John Holden, assistant professor in the Spears School of Business Department of Management, in press release Friday.

According to the description on the business school’s website, ideal attendees include: athletic directors, assistant athletic directors, compliance officers, higher education administrators and collegiate student athletes.

Maci Inselman with the OSU businesses school said other, for-credit course options exist for OSU students interested in learning more about NIL, but she declined to provide information about those courses.

To learn more about what the University of Oklahoma Athletic Department is doing on the topic of NIL, read this recent article.

Big month for the Hilliary companies

For the Hilliary family companies in southwest Oklahoma, the past few weeks have brought three major announcements: the acquisition of two telephone companies, the acquisition of four rural news outlets, and the announcement of a $5 million project to build fiber internet infrastructure for 1,900 homes on Fort Sill.

Hilliary Communications, which has tens of thousands of customers across 22 counties in Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa, will start the fiber project this month and expects to complete it by 2023.

Meanwhile, the company grew its customer base by about 3,000 in late December by purchasing a pair of rival companies, Southwest Oklahoma Telecommunications Company (SWOI Wireless) and Southwest Oklahoma Telephone Company.

“Hilliary Communications has thrived over the past 60 years as a family-owned business because of our unwavering dedication to the community,” Edward Hilliary, managing partner of Hilliary Communications, said in a press release. “In this spirit, the Southwest Oklahoma Telecommunications office in Jackson County will become a new regional office for Hilliary Communications. We will also soon begin deploying fiber to existing local towers supporting our new customers and expanding their options for affordable, high-speed internet.”

The Hilliary family also operates another company with an expanding footprint, Hilliary Media Group, which owns The Southwest Ledger and The Chronicle newspapers in southwest Oklahoma. To start 2022, the company announced the acquisition of a conglomerate of media companies previously owned by Bob Funk: the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network, the Oklahoma Farm Report, the Oklahoma Energy Today news website and the Road to Rural Prosperity podcast. (Funk had purchased the media platforms in 2019.)

“Hilliary Media Group is committed to telling the incredible stories of the people and industries that make up rural America,” Dustin Hilliary, publisher of Hilliary Media Group, said in a press release. “We are proud to establish the Rural Oklahoma Network through this acquisition as we strengthen and expand our statewide coverage of the rural way of life.”

Former judge’s sex situation leads to new trial

The fallout from former Oklahoma County District Judge Tim Henderson’s alleged sexual misconduct involving an assistant district attorney has now led to a man convicted of murder being granted a new trial.

Robert Hashagen III was convicted in February 2021 and sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 death of a 94-year-old woman in a trial presided over by Henderson. In December, however, Canadian County District Judge Paul Hesse ruled that Hashagen’s due process rights were violated because an assistant district attorney involved in the trial is one of two female assistant DAs who have accused Henderson of unwanted sexual advances and contact. (Henderson has maintained that his sexual relationships with the women were consensual.)

“A new trial is the only adequate remedy to redress the defendant’s denial of due process of law,” Hesse wrote in an order that names the assistant district attorney relevant to Hashagen’s case. “Also, a new trial is necessary in order to preserve the integrity and reputation of our criminal justice system.”

The allegations against Henderson remain under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks has been assigned by Attorney General John O’Connor to review the criminal inquiry into Henderson’s actions.

Profile story examines Harold Hamm

If you’re into profile stories about wealthy Oklahomans, strap in for an examination of Harold Hamm’s current feelings about President Joe Biden (not a fan), former President Donald Trump (not a fan like he used to be) and rocks (big fan).

Derek Brower of The Financial Times recently had a modest lunch with Hamm in downtown OKC, where they discussed the 76-year-old billionaire petroleum pioneer’s political perspectives.

“Republican, Democrat . . . I’m an oilocrat,” Hamm is quoted as saying.

Read Brower’s full story here.

(Editor’s note: Andrea DenHoed contributed to this report. Also, Hilliary Communications is a sponsor of the Sustainable Journalism Foundation to allow NonDoc’s work to be reprinted for free in print publications across Oklahoma.)