11 Dec 2015

Oklahoma politician known for fighting police asset seizures charged with felony by local law enforcement; police seize business assets

Norman City Attorney Jeff Bryant said he advised city council member Stephen Tyler Holman against taking a management job at the Friendly Market. 
According to Bryant, his advice was based on his legal interpretation that the store sold merchandise classified as drug paraphernalia under state law.
Holman has said he disclosed to the city attorney that he was taking the job as a matter of standard procedure. Holman and Friendly Market owner Robert Cox do not believe they are doing anything illegal and believe the justice system will vindicate them.
In October 2014, Fatt Hedz, a head shop at 320 White St., in Campus Corner was raided by police and all of the shop's glass pipes confiscated. The shop later closed. McCloudz Pipes & Novelties, 230 E Main St, was raided in April and has also closed.
Both shops had merchandise and money seized during those raids. An employee of Fatt Hedz said the property is still in police custody and the case is ongoing.
When Norman police raided the downtown business McCloudz Glass in April, Friendly Market owner Robert Cox sought Holman’s guidance to see if anything could be done at the city level to protect the business and its property, but the police were executing the seizures based on state, not city, law.
Holman voiced opposition to search and seizure laws which he believes are unconstitutional when the city considered buying an armored vehicle for the police department using those funds in August. Against a background of citywide protests, the council postponed the purchase indefinitely.
A month later, Cox offered Holman a job in management at the Friendly Market.
Holman is walking a fine line in regard to the city's ethics ordinance, according to former council member Tom Kovach, who helped write the revised city ethics ordinance.

While Kovach said it is not his place to determine whether an ethics violation has occurred, the conversation about how council members use their power and the full implications of the ethics code is always a dialogue worth having.
“It appears he's deciding which laws he wants to follow and which ones he doesn't, and he's using the spotlight he's getting as a council member in a way that's untoward,” Kovach said. “It's not that I disagree with him on the issue. It appears that he's using his bully-pulpit to advocate for a reform that benefits his employer.”
Kovach said he personally has a problem with seizure laws but talking about it through the position of Holman's position as an elected official might be inappropriate because of his job.
“There's a fine line he walks because it's an issue that has been discussed by city council,” Kovach said. “It primarily benefits his employer, and it doesn't affect a broad section of the public.”
Applicable portions of the ethics code could come under “Conflict of interest part a:
“In order to assure independence and impartiality on behalf of the common good, no elected City Official shall use his official position to influence government decisions in which he has a pecuniary interest or in which he has an organizational responsibility that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest” and a section that reads, “Members of the Council shall:
“(1) Conduct themselves so as to bring credit upon the City, setting an example of good, ethical conduct for all citizens of the community;
“(2) Comply with all lawful actions, directives and orders of duly constituted municipal officers as such may be issued in the normal and lawful discharge of their duties...”
Even if Holman violated city ethics, there are no repercussions outside of public opinion, and in this case, public opinion may be on the Ward 7 council member's side.
“There's no provision in our ethics ordinance for removal of a council member from office,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “All of this speculation is not appropriate. This judicial process has to unfold.”

Read More:http://www.normantranscript.com/news/government/legal-ethical-questions-surround-charge-against-council-member/article_511395f2-5990-529e-83f8-6e506c6782a1.html


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