Tillman County sheriff election 2024
Oscar Juanes, left, and Robert Wallace, right, are the two candidates for Tillman County sheriff in 2024. Their June 18 matchup has been defined by a recording Wallace made with "behind the scenes guy" Bryan Smith, center. (NonDoc)

The Republican primary for Tillman County sheriff took a weird turn this spring when candidate Robert Wallace used his watch to make a surreptitious recording of a meeting requested by the chairman of the county jail trust, who attempted to dissuade Wallace from filing for office.

Calling himself the “behind the scenes guy” in Tillman County, Bryan Smith used racially insensitive language, suggested possible quid-pro-quo scenarios and alleged criminal behavior by prior sheriffs in the nearly hour-long conversation posted by Wallace on YouTube. Fallout following the five videos has included Smith resigning from the county jail trust and from his teaching job, as well as an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation inquiry and community embarrassment.

“One thing I can assure you, my ass ain’t running (for sheriff). I’ve had my time in the trenches. I’m a better behind the scenes guy anyway,” Smith told Wallace in the fifth video. “I do the behind the scenes shit. That’s what I like doing. I don’t want to have to run, that’s not my deal. I can make more happen back here. (…) I’m trying to make shit happen where I can get out of this damn school job, so I don’t need to be distracted with all this shit.”

Ultimately, Smith got what he wanted but not how he wanted it, resigning from the Great Plains Technology Center and the Tillman County Law Enforcement Trust Authority in late May and apologizing for a remark he made about another law enforcement officer treating employees like “the Black kind” of “hired help.”

Despite Smith’s efforts to convince him otherwise, Wallace filed to run for Tillman County sheriff in April, two months after he was fired from his job as night shift supervisor for the sheriff’s office. Now, Wallace faces former Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agent Oscar Juanes in the June 18 Republican primary election. With no other candidates in the sheriff’s race, Tuesday’s primary will determine who wins the office.

“We’re in a position here where, if Bryan is as powerful and connected as he says he is, it puts Tillman County in a bad position. We’re not able to have a fair election, we’re not able to have a fair government,” Wallace said in an interview with NonDoc. “If he really is pulling the strings that he claims he’s pulling — threatening and attempting to bribe someone to not run for office — you have to ask yourself, what are they trying to hide? What are they trying to protect?”

Asked about the videos, Juanes offered only a brief statement and ended the interview before discussing his campaign.

“That has nothing to do with me, and I don’t have a comment on that,” Juanes said. “I know Bryan, but he was not talking for me.”

Recording to capture ‘a snake in the grass’

Wallace said he recorded his second meeting with Smith on March 21 at the Tipton Police Department by using a watch with a built-in camera without Smith’s knowledge. Wallace said they had met at Smith’s house in fall 2023 when he was considering a campaign for sheriff and was told Smith is “the guy who gets people elected.”

“I’ve heard over and over and over again, when speaking about Bryan Smith, that he’s a snake in the grass,” Wallace said. “I’ve had multiple people, especially throughout my campaign, tell me, ‘Bryan’s a snake in the grass. You need to be careful around him.'”

Wallace said he initially did not plan to release the videos.

“I did not want to be seen as trying to sway the election. I spoke with a few of my colleagues who were all of the opinion that the public deserved to know how things in this county are run by certain people behind the scenes,” Wallace said. “After discussing it with them, I felt Oscar would have ample opportunity to distance himself from Bryan prior to the election and still allow for a fair race.”

On May 10, four days after Wallace released the videos, Juanes posted a statement on Facebook.

“This week has been taxing on our community. I want to assure my supporters and Tillman County residents that I believe in a fair and professional campaign,” Juanes wrote. “I have stayed respectful and not displayed an impulsive reaction. I speak on my own behalf and comments made by others do not reflect my views.”

Highlights from the nearly one-hour recorded conversation include Smith making implied threats against Wallace if he were to move forward and file for sheriff election in April.

Bryan Smith resigned from his position at Great Plains Technology Center following publication of a conversation he had with a sheriff’s candidate in March 2024. (GPTC)

“I don’t want to see you ruin your chances for the future,” Smith said in the second video. “I’m not saying that would happen, but I know today if you run against Oscar that there’s going to be hard feelings with the commissioners.”

Smith said District 2 Tillman County Commissioner Joe Don Dickey — who was indicted in 2022 on embezzlement and conspiracy charges before pleading no contest to a reduced charge in 2023 for a deferred sentence related to a controversial asphalt emulsion plant scheme — could help Juanes put together $20,000 “to run” and that “this would be a whole lot easier deal if we didn’t have to go through all that.”

“Quite frankly, whatever you have spent can probably be given back to you. There ain’t no campaign shit in it yet. Hasn’t been filed,” Smith said. “There’s no campaign, and I’m sure that some of these donors would make that happen so you aren’t out anything on what you’ve already done. You can put that back in the campaign fund for the future, or whatever you want to do like that.”

Contacted by NonDoc, Dickey said Smith’s statements did not involve him.

“I had nothing to do with that,” Dickey said, declining to answer further questions.

OSBI is investigating the videos to determine whether any of Smith’s statements and claims constitute criminal behavior, an agency spokesman said.

“OSBI was requested by the Tillman County District Attorney’s Office to investigate possible bribery,” Hunter McKee said June 10. “It’s an ongoing investigation for us right now.”

In his conversation with Wallace, Smith made allegations against former Tillman County sheriffs, even accusing people of conducting and allowing criminal activity at the jail.

“This needs to be an office that’s held in high standing, and whoever is in there needs to be that-a-way,” Smith said. “And sometimes we don’t always make that, but at least we didn’t have a crook in there this time — selling dope, using dope, running extortion games all the time. Hell, they were selling dope out of the back of the fucking jail.”

Contacted by NonDoc, Smith hung up his phone immediately.

Wallace, a former sergeant at the Tillman County Sheriff’s Office, said he never planned to run for sheriff, but he said members of the community asked him owing to complaints about current Tillman County Sheriff William “Bill” Ingram not following through when contacted for help. (Ingram is not seeking reelection and said “no comment” when contacted by text message for an interview.)

“I think probably the biggest reason you’re running is Bill (…) I’m just saying I can see that, because I know what’s going on behind the scenes with everything,” Smith told Wallace.

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Ingram fired Wallace ‘for the good of the department’

While he did not say it in the recorded conversation, Smith was referring to the fact that Ingram had terminated Wallace’s employment as night shift supervisor at the Tillman County Sheriff’s Office in February.

In January, a couple months after Wallace had solidified his decision to run for sheriff, he said Ingram asked OSBI to investigate him for an excessive force allegation.

“A young lady was placed in handcuffs. She had had surgery on her wrist. She alleged that when she was placed in handcuffs, one of her stitches had pulled loose, and that was the extent of the allegation,” Wallace said. “OSBI came back and said, ‘There’s absolutely nothing to this deal. This should have been investigated in-house.'”

Wallace said he was not wearing a body camera at the time of the arrest because the sheriff’s department was in the middle of upgrading its body camera system. He said several witnesses saw what happened.

Wallace also said he talked with Deanna Hansel, an assistant district attorney, and that she told him he was cleared of the accusations and could return to work.

When Wallace attempted to return to work in February, he said Ingram handed him a brief termination letter.

“For the good of the department, your services are no longer needed,” Ingram wrote. “This is effective immediately.”

Wallace also posted a video of Ingram telling him his services were no longer needed and that it had nothing to do with the use-of-force investigation. Wallace asked whether the decision was subject to the Sheriff’s Review Board process, but Ingram said, “We don’t have to have one.”

Ingram died following a motorcycle wreck shortly before the publication of this article.

Asked about her conversation with Wallace about the use-of-force allegation, Hansel replied: “That investigation was closed. There’s not a pending investigation.”

Wallace announced his campaign for Tillman County sheriff shortly after he was fired and began working as the assistant chief of the Tipton Police Department. Jason Brown, Wallace’s former partner at the Frederick Police Department, gave him a call one month later, Wallace said.

“Jason said, ‘Bryan (Smith) wants me to have a meeting with you to discuss this whole sheriff’s run. He said he wants you to drop out. He wanted me to ask you to drop out and I said no,'” Wallace recalled.

In his recorded conversation with Wallace, Smith said he spent a lot of time talking with Brown.

“I probably wouldn’t have this conversation if it wasn’t for Jason — and you coming to me to start with asking my opinion about it — so I’m back giving you my opinion. And I can just tell you that a race is going to get ugly. They always do, and it’s not Oscar going to get it ugly. I’m going to be the one have to make it ugly,” Smith said in the second video. “That’s just what I do behind the scenes. And I don’t want to do that. Quite frankly, I like you. Jason thinks a lot of you. I don’t know you as well as I need to, but we can fix that over time.”

Brown did not respond to NonDoc’s requests for comment.

Smith apologizes for comments in videos

Following Wallace’s release of the videos May 6, Smith resigned from his job as a construction technology instructor at Great Plains Technology Center in Frederick. Smith said in the first video that he works at the school for the money and that the kids drove him crazy.

In Smith’s apology for his comments, he addressed his statements about Great Plains Technology Center.

“I would like to apologize to my students and their families for implying that I was tired of the children and only teaching for the money,” Smith said. “I indeed love my students and this teaching life.”

In the videos, Smith claimed the Tillman County Board of Commissioners was aware of his alleged plan to clear Wallace from the race and get Juanes elected sheriff.

District 3 Commissioner Levi Krasser, however, denied Smith’s claim.

“The comments that Bryan Smith made were of his own, they do not reflect the Board of County Commissioners or any elected official in Tillman County,” Krasser said. “He made those quotes on his own, and he stands beside them. We do not in any way shape or form support those. I want my constituents to know that those words were his and his words alone. I don’t want him dragging [the commissioners’] names or my name into something we didn’t say.”

Krasser said Smith also resigned from his position as chairman of the Tillman County Law Enforcement Trust Authority, to which he was appointed by Dickey.

Krasser said Smith’s comments to Wallace about the election were “ridiculous.”

“I don’t support it. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “At the end of the day, you research your candidates and vote for the best candidate and the best candidate wins.”

But Smith’s comments in the first video underscore the reason for OSBI’s investigation into potential bribery-related offenses.

“If you could get behind Oscar, I mean, to me there’s a possibility — and I can’t make a promise for Oscar — but I think there’s a possibility you could come and go to work for Oscar and learn this thing, and there’s going to be a point in time where Oscar ain’t going to want this sheriff’s deal forever, if you know what I’m saying,” Smith said. “And I think, like you came to me before, the things you need to know to be sheriff and be effective, you can learn under Oscar.”

(Update: This article was updated at 11:11 a.m. Sunday, June 16, to reflect that Tillman County Sheriff Bill Ingram died late June 15.)

Read Robert Wallace’s termination letter

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