Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 9:34 am

After a few years of not having a board, the Gruber Recreational Trust Authority is going again, and they're hitting the ground running, according to Secretary TJ Ellis, a financial adviser in Muskogee.

"We are trying to get the park cleaned up so it can start being used as a tourism destination," Ellis said. "(We want to) bring economic dollars to Muskogee County."

As part of the initiative, the group is sponsoring two volunteer clean-up days at the park, on Sept. 12 and Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

"We're encouraging the off-road community to come out and enjoy a day with other enthusiasts playing around the park," he said. "And picking up trash and debris while they do it.

"Also, if folks have a weedeater, we are asking for a little maintenance with overgrown grass and weeds."

The group will provide trash bags, and RT&T Cycles in Muskogee is providing cold drinks, while Herringshaw Waste Management is providing a roll-off dumpster.

Filed under: Local Good News

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 9:17 am

The ENDUI enforcement teams will be proactively searching for impaired drivers with upcoming sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols on Sept. 5 around Lake Tenkiller and in and around the City of Tahlequah. The checkpoints will coincide with regular patrols aimed at impaired drivers. Agencies involved include: Tahlequah Police Department, Cherokee Nation Marshal's Office, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Northeastern State University Police Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Impaired driving is one of Oklahoma's deadliest crimes. In 2014, 163 people died on Oklahoma's roads in crashes that involved a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, accounting for nearly one-third of traffic fatalities in the State.

With increased enforcement efforts, well trained law enforcement officers will have zero tolerance for persons driving while impaired. The goal is to have a highly visible ENDUI program that will discourage people who have been drinking or using impairing substances from getting behind the wheel, and to address those who make the poor decision to drive while impaired.

"On average there is one alcohol impaired driving-related fatality every 52 minutes across the country," said Col. Rick Adams, Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. "Driving impaired or riding with someone impaired is not worth the risk."

Adams said law enforcement officials are making progress in the fight against impaired driving by working with our safety partners and by arming people with useful tools such as the SaferRide app. The app allows quick access to an alternate transportation and is available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store.

The ENDUI enforcement teams want all of the citizens of the State of Oklahoma to have a safe and enjoyable weekend. If you are planning to drink or if you use any substance that can impair your ability to drive, designate a sober driver, call a taxi, use mass transit, or call a friend or family member.

Filed under: Local Crime

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 7:36 am

Leaders from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians gathered at Red Clay State Park in Tennessee recently for a historic Tri-Council meeting.

The event, held Friday, was the first time all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes assembled for a council meeting at Red Clay since removal on the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory in 1838.

After Georgia passed laws displacing Cherokees and preventing Cherokee leaders from meeting, the Cherokee capital was moved from New Echota to just over the Tennessee state line in Red Clay. Nearly a dozen separate council meetings held there between 1832 and 1837.

"The gathering of our Cherokee governments at this sacred site is not only historic, but a strong reflection of our inherent sovereignty," said Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd. "It is because of our Cherokee ancestors' spirit of perseverance that we are able to gather and conduct the business of our people. We must always keep that in mind and protect that right for our future generations."

During Tri-Council, attendees also visited Cherokee, North Carolina and toured the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' recently completed $28 million justice center and the tribe's $80 million hospital under construction. Attendees also watched a performance of the play Sliver of a Full Moon, written by Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Kathryn Nagle and directed by Cherokee Nation citizen Betsy Richards.

Tri-Council unites the legislative branches of government of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and is designed to create a unified and federally recognized Cherokee voice dedicated to promoting and advancing tribal sovereignty.

The next Tri-Council meeting will be hosted by the Cherokee Nation in 2016.

Filed under: Local Tribes

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 7:31 am

The Pride of Muskogee High School Band has partnered with the Muskogee Fire Department to provide blankets for those in need.

Beginning today, area residents are encouraged to drop off new, unused blankets at any Muskogee Fire Station. Containers for The Pride of Muskogee Band Blanket Drive donations will be available through Nov. 30.

Students will help sort blankets and assist in delivering to families in need through local homeless shelters, nursing homes and Women In Safe Home (WISH).

Muskogee band students said they are very grateful for the support they receive from the Muskogee community and wanted an opportunity to pay it forward by helping those in need.

Muskogee Fire Blanket drop-off locations:

  • Station # 1, 515 Columbus St.
  • Station # 3, 2603 Border St.
  • Station # 4, 100 S. Country Club Road.
  • Station # 5, 1706 N. York St.
  • Station # 6, 513 E. Peak Blvd.
  • Station # 7, 200 40th N. St.

Information: Derek Tatum, Fire Chief (918) 684-6252 or Bruce Thompson, bruce.thompson@mpsi20.org.

Filed under: Local Good News Education

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Monday, August 31, 2015, 11:29 am

Muskogee police just sent the following:

​Recently we released 2 vehicle descriptions related to possible attempted abductions in the Muskogee area. We have made contact with the driver and passenger of the White Ford Focus, both juveniles, and they were interviewed by Muskogee Police Department Investigators.

​During the course of the Interviews it was determined that they were not a danger, and that they made a huge error in judgment that they thought was a big joke. They now understand the consequences, and the serious nature of what they did, and expressed sincere remorse for the bad joke.

​They were not charged with any crimes, as they did not commit an actual crime by what they did.

​We are still proactively seeking the maroon Pontiac that was described in a separate incident at the same time, and we are still seeking any leads or tips as to its location or if anyone see's that vehicle.

UPDATE 3:30 P.M.: Muskogee Police say the juveniles will be charged:

The Muskogee Police Department's investigations division submitted their findings to the Muskogee County District Attorney's Office, they have determined that we will be filing charges on the juveniles for Outraging Public Decency.

Filed under: Local Crime

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Monday, August 31, 2015, 8:38 am

Muskogee City Council is seeking citizens to fill vacancies for board and commission appointments.

A rotating appointment process will be used to ensure that each city councilor has the same number of appointments during their term, regardless of the board or commission. Interested parties can view brief descriptions of each board to determine if their qualifications meet the specific needs for the board. Applications can be located on the City website www.cityofmuskogee.com by searching under "City Council" and then "Boards and Commissions".

For additional questions, call the City Clerk's Office at 918-684-6270.

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Monday, August 31, 2015, 8:36 am

Cherokee Nation citizens can renew their tribal license plates online starting Sept. 1.

The online renewal is more convenient for Cherokee citizens in further corners of the state, saving them gas money, waiting in line and processing time. The Cherokee Nation expanded its car tags to Cherokee citizens in all 77 Oklahoma counties last year.

"We are thrilled to be able to offer this kind of progressive online service to the Cherokee people," said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "No matter where our Cherokee Nation citizens reside in Oklahoma, they can easily log on and renew their license plate. The new online service will save time and money for our people by simplifying the renewal process. Instead of driving to the tag office and waiting in line for a renewal, the process is now just a few simple clicks on the computer. This effort was spearheaded by the talented staff at the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission, and I applaud them for their efforts. It will truly make the renewal process faster and easier."

The Cherokee Nation has six tag offices, including in Tulsa, Tahlequah, Collinsville, Sallisaw, Adair and Jay.

Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said the online service is for regular motor vehicles and motorcycles needing renewal stickers only.

New car tags, commercial vehicle plates and boats do not have the online service option since each requires additional paperwork.

"This is exciting for the tribe. It will be a great convenience for our citizens who live outside our 14-county jurisdiction, and even for those close by who want to save some time inside the jurisdiction," Swepston said. "Once received and processed online, the renewal should arrive by mail in about three to four days."

Cherokee Nation citizens need a copy of their citizenship card, last four digits of their VIN, insurance verification and tag number.

The Cherokee Nation averaged about $9 million annually in car tag revenue before expanding statewide last year.

In fiscal year 2014, the tribe earned $11.6 million in revenue, with projections expected to exceed that in fiscal year 2015, which ends Oct. 1.

The tribe donates 38 percent of the sale of its tribal car tag monies to schools, 20 percent for roads and bridges, and 5 percent to help law enforcement in northeastern Oklahoma.

For more information on tribal car tags or online tag renewals, call 918-453-5100 or log onto Cherokee.org and follow the links for the tag office and tax commission.

Filed under: Local Tribes Traffic

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Sunday, August 30, 2015, 5:32 pm

David Villicana-Lopez, 38, of Tulsa is dead after he never resurfaced following a dive off of a stationary boat on Saturday, according to the Oklahoma Lake Patrol.

Witnesses said Villicana-Lopez was struggling in the water as soon as he entered it around 7 p.m., and attempts were made to extract him from the water, but he went under and never resurfaced. His body was recovered today around 2:30 p.m. by dragging operations in 11 feet of water. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Medical Examiner Manny Lopez.

Villicana-Lopez was not wearing a personal flotation device.

Filed under: Local

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Friday, August 28, 2015, 9:19 am

An older white man driving a four-door maroon Pontiac pulled up to a juvenile standing at the corner of 43rd and Gibson at 7 a.m. yesterday and offered the juvenile candy to get into his car, according to Muskogee Police.

The juvenile, who was waiting for a ride to school, ran away and the suspect drove off in an unknown direction.

"Patrol has saturated the area, looking for the vehicle," Officer Lincoln Anderson said just now. "They have not found it as of yet."

If you have information regarding this crime, call Muskogee Police at 918-683-8000.

Filed under: Local Crime

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Friday, August 28, 2015, 7:29 am

BancFirst has announced a statewide contest giving winners the chance to meet Steven Adams, the center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and spend a day at the Oklahoma City Zoo with a private VIP sea lion show at the zoo's aquatic center.

One winner from each community with a BancFirst location will be selected. Following the aquatic show each community group will meet and have a photo taken with Adams.

Register for your chance to win at any BancFirst location in the state from September 1 through September 10. Each winner will be allowed to bring three guests to the event, but minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Filed under: Local Sports

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Thursday, August 27, 2015, 8:14 am

Twenty-nine students in Dr. Ryan Carlton's General Biology class at Connors State College were shocked and surprised today when the college's president, Dr. Tim Faltyn, interrupted their class to give them all free computers. The class was chosen for a pilot program called Connors Connects, which aims to put a computer in the hands of every student on campus.

"This particular class was chosen because the demographics of the class are almost identical to the demographics of our entire student body," said CSC's Associate VP for External Affairs, Dr. Ryan Blanton. "If this program works well for this class, we believe it will work well for all of our students."

Faltyn and Director of IT, Heath Hodges, came up with the idea in response to the demands of creating and maintaining lab spaces for students and classes.

"The vision is to make every classroom you are in an instant laboratory," Faltyn told students. "I don't know of any other college in Oklahoma doing this; but, we don't want to just be first, we want to be the best."

"This program is going to help me further my education and not be limited by a lack of technology," said student John Nelson. "I can now immediately communicate with my professor."

The program also reduces the financial burden for students as electronic textbooks are significantly more affordable than their print counterparts.

"It's going to help me tremendously with the book cost," said student Sarah Patterson. "I have to pay out of pocket for all of my books. I'm really excited."

The pilot program is currently funded by the Connors Development Foundation, directed by Blanton.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015, 7:51 am

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame will host an all-star jam session Thursday, August 27th, featuring Curt Hill and Harley Hamm at 8 pm, playing everything from CCR to Led Zepplin and Bob Marley!

Doors open at 7, and the show starts at 8 pm. Admission is $5 at the door and all ages are welcome!

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10-5 pm. "Live at The Frisco Depot" is presented every Thursday night at 8 pm and features local, regional and national musical acts. For OMHOF's upcoming events, "like" the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Facebook page or visit: www.omhof.com. To contact OMHOF: (918) 687-0800 or by email: okmusic@omhof.com.

Filed under: Local Entertainment

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Thursday, August 27, 2015, 7:45 am

The eighth annual River Rumba Regatta is happening this weekend at Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee, just over the Arkansas River of Shawnee.

The races start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with registrations starting at 9. Tomorrow night, the Parade of Boats and House party get started at 6:30 p.m., with live music starting at 8 at the harbor.

The regatta is presented by Muskogee Parks and Recreation, Muskogee Port Authority and Muskogee Exchange Club. Proceeds go to help underserved youth in the Muskogee area.

Filed under: Local Entertainment

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 7:50 am

Muskogee man Terrill White has released his first southern gospel album in almost 19 years. The album, "Delivered", was released on Monday and features many southern gospel favorites.

"I grew up in a small country church where Southern Gospel was a part of every worship service," he said. "Songs such as 'I'll Fly Away' and 'The Old Rugged Cross' were sung from the old red back Church Hymnal and those songs instilled a love for gospel music within me that has followed me for 37 years now."

White has also served as worship director for Trinity Family Worship in Fort Gibson, OK and New Life Center in Muskogee, OK and is currently a member of the Muskogee First Assembly of God Sanctuary Choir where he is a regularly featured soloist.

"Delivered" is available for purchase by contacting White at terrillwhite@gmail.com or via the Square Marketplace at www.mkt.com/terrillwhite. Additionally, the project will soon be available on the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Filed under: Local Entertainment

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 9:16 pm

One man is injured in a shooting by the Big Coin laundry, according to emergency workers.

The shooting was at 713 Irving.

All that is known is one man is hurt. Police have just arrived on the scene.

9:23 PM UPDATE: Emergency workers report that EMS is transporting the man "hot" to the hospital in critical condition.

11:13 PM UPDATE Police currently have no suspects, according to officer Lincoln Anderson. One person was shot and transported to Eastar Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

UPDATE, 8:31 AM Aug. 26: The victim's name is Carlos Keys Jr., according to Officer Lincoln Anderson of the Muskogee Police Department.

Filed under: Local Crime Breaking News

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 3:25 pm

A church called DestinyChurch of Broken Arrow is looking to expand to Muskogee. Generally, that sort of thing wouldn't be news. What is news, however, is the violent backlash against the church on its Facebook page after its video "Why Muskogee?" started making the rounds.

View the video here:

Changing the Destiny of Muskogee

Will you help us change the Destiny of Muskogee? #DCMuskogee #LovingPeople

Posted by Destiny Church Muskogee on Friday, August 21, 2015

The video, which cites crime, poverty and teen pregnancy statistics for Muskogee, features a narrator who says people who give money to help DestinyChurch create a Muskogee campus will be helping to alleviate those problems, as well as a "racial divide" in Muskogee, by providing a "safe place" for everyone.

"Why not actually build a church there? N. Tulsa has FAR more problems with poverty and crime than Muskogee," asks Tony Spatz. "But it's more dangerous and, well let's be honest, the pocketbooks are smaller."

" I think your video is insulting and condescending," said GA Robinson. "While no community is perfect or without flaws, our community deserves better than your hate filled words. I would never set foot in your house of hypocrisy."

Spatz added:

Isn't it coincidental that now that Muskogee over the last 10 years has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and managed to recruit and sustain new commerce and tourism through chain recruitment, music festivals, Sunday liquor by the drink (no thanks to area churches), and the like,

suddenly "needs" a new out of town church to come in and "save" our poor broken town.

Where we you at back 10-15 years ago when Muskogee was a static community in distress? Oh yeah, no one had money to give back then.

Stay home. We've got this.

Destiny's pastor in Broken Arrow, Mike Goolsbay, was accused in a civil lawsuit of being negligent in not reporting evidence of child molestation at an earlier church, called Grace. Several Facebook commenters mention those allegations, and receive no response.

Muskogee campus pastor Andrew Conley has not returned a call for comment.

4:38 P.M. UPDATE: Pastor Mark Mike Goolsbay, his associate pastor, Jonathan Rivers, Muskogee campus pastor Andrew Conley and Goolsbay's wife, Renae, called MuskogeeNOW on a conference call just now.

"We did not expect the negative response that we got," from the video, Goolsbay said. "That video was intended to be for former members of Church 4:18 and some of our Broken Arrow people who were part of our efforts to relaunch the church there. ... We were not intentionally hitting up strangers for money. This was a communication tool, a loving hand that kind of turned into a horse whip."

The video's message was, in hindsight, a mistake, he added.

"We (should) have shared our vision and our love and what we see as so fantastic about Muskogee before we cited those statistics," he said. "We fell in love with this amazing group of people at Church 4:18 ... we weren't willing to ship them off without doing everything we could to make sure those believers were taken care of."

Church 4:18 dwindled after the founding pastor left and the replacement pastor then left to pastor a growing church in Norman. Church 4:18, Goolsbay said, was in a poor location on Cherokee Street just north of Peak Boulevard, and as membership began to dwindle, the decision was made to rename, relocate and relaunch the church.

"I'm not sure how much money we've spent so far," he said. "But it's more than $50,000" on efforts to relaunch the church.

"We are not asking the Muskogee community to finance this church," Renae Goolsby added. "There isn't anything in this for us financially. If anything, it's a financial sacrifice for our church to do this."

Mike Goolsbay added that he and church members would respond on the Facebook page to any questions, but they would not respond to accusations about the church or any of its members or leaders.

"They can accuse me all day long," he said. "That's just part of it. But if they accuse team members, they're going to get banned. I'm not putting that on staff members or launch team members or another church."

Accusations that Goolsbay covered up a molestation are misstated, he said.

What happened, he said, was that it was brought to his attention that a staff member had sent an email to a juvenile that contained an ostensibly inappropriate phrase.

"I was never aware of any allegations," Goolsbay said. "The email was in 1996 from Aaron, a college student at the time ... it was a matter of ... the email said the student had asked him about practice, and the coach said 'you better be able to get it up. At least I hope you can get it up,' so it was a pretty sophomoric thing. That was why I got sued, but I ended up being released. There was never a criminal accusation or an accusation that I had known of any accusations of child molestation. Because I would have been the first one to take someone's head off."

UPDATE 4:03 AM: Goolsbay called me at 3:29 AM. What follows is a partial recounting of the conversation:

ME: Hello.

GOOLSBAY: I feel like I've given you enough time to correct your article. I think I now have to refer you to our legal ...

ME: What? Who is this?

GOOLSBAY: This is Pastor Mike. We're on the record now. I feel like I've given you enough time...

ME: I updated the article way earlier today.

GOOLSBAY: It still says I was accused of covering up a molestation and I wasn't. And you still refer to me as Mark, not Mike.

ME: Have you refreshed? Because I fixed that a long time ago (turns out, I had missed one reference to "Mark," but had fixed one).

GOOLSBAY: Yes, I've refreshed multiple times. With screenshots. I was not accused of covering up a molestation.

ME: Yes you were. On Facebook, at the very least.

GOOLSBAY: Then at least cite that. Cite your sources. That's Reporting 101.

ME: Have you been to Reporting 101?

GOOLSBAY: Yes I have. I'm a professor of (he listed 'business' something or other that he's professor of. It was 3:30 in the morning, so I didn't get the details. The only thing I could find online is his certification as a physical education instructor from 1992 to 1996). At this point it's just about integrity.

ME: Dude, are you drunk? It's 3 in the morning. I am in bed with my wife and two babies.

GOOLSBAY: No, I'm not drunk. I just feel like I've given you enough time to update the article...

ME: I'm not going to update the article right now. It's 3 in the morning.

GOOLSBAY: I know. I've received weird calls at 3 in the morning, too. I'm just...

ME: I'll update the article in the morning if there's anything to fix. Right now, I'm going back to sleep. Goodbye.

GOOLSBAY: I just feel like...

I hung up.

Filed under: Local

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 8:08 am

Muskogee is the seventeenth-best city in Oklahoma to start a business, according to data crunched by NerdWallet, an online financial education site.

According to the site:

Oklahoma has a reputation among entrepreneurs: The Sooner State is friendly, and its blend of economic pluses and perks make it a great place to start a business.

The state offers a range of incentives, as well as low operational costs, a low rate of unemployment and a low cost of living. Oklahoma ranked seventh in the nation for small-business friendliness in a survey of entrepreneurs by Thumbtack and the Kauffman Foundation.

The site analyzed 64 cities with populations over 5,000. Ardmore is the top city on the list, with an average annual revenue of $1.88 million per business, the highest on the list. Glenpool was ranked last (just after Wagoner) with an average of $192,013 per business.

Muskogee missed the top ten, but was still high on the list, with an average per-business annual revenue of $1,152,850. Average revenue was not the only criteria considered; it counted for 20 percent of the ranking. Businesses with paid employees counted as 25 percent, and Muskogee's percentage of businesses with paid employees was 32.69, while Ardmore eked out a slightly higher 33.72 percent.

You can read about the rankings and the methodology used to compile them here.

Filed under: Local Business

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 8:03 am

The Three Rivers History Explorers will meet Tuesday August 25th at 7:00 p.m. at Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin, Muskogee.

The speaker will be Christopher Price, Director of the Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site. The public is welcome.

Information: http://www.okhistory.org/sites/honeysprings?full

Or www.3riversmuseum.com

Filed under: Local

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 8:02 am

Muskogee Public Schools will host an open house for the public at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the new athletic facility located at Muskogee High School, 3200 E. Shawnee Road.

The Muskogee High School Athletic facility was funded by the 2013 bond issue at a total cost of $2,532,053.47. This facility has a total 38,000 sq. ft. space to accommodate site needs. The main area consists of an artificial field for baseball, softball, hitting cages, golf and other athletic events as needed. This facility also incorporated five secure storage areas for storage of equipment for the different programs, six offices and four locker rooms.

"This building is a real gem for our students in athletics," said Maintenance Director and Project Manager Wayne Johnson. "And something that Muskogee Public Schools and our community can be proud of."

The main restrooms were incorporated with individual shower facilities for privacy for a total shower capacity of 16. A weight training room which is 2681 sq. ft. can be used by athletes and employees of the district. As with all new additions, MPS has also built in a safe room to accommodate the occupants in this facility in the event of a significant storm event.

Information: Athletics or public relations, (918) 684-3700, ext. 1613.

Filed under: Local Education

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Monday, August 24, 2015, 1:48 pm

Wesley Dawson, 44, the emergency management director in McIntosh County and a former Eufaula Police officer, is the subject of an investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted at least one underage girl.

"We can't confirm anything involving that individual," said Jessica Brown, the public information officer at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. "What I can say is we are investigating reports of the sexual assault of a minor by a member of the county government. We were requested to look into it on August 12."

According to members of the Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office, Dawson is a former Eufaula police officer and current Emergency Management Director.

"Our office would not have anything to do with that case if charges are filed," a spokeswoman at the DA's office said. "We would recuse ourselves."

UPDATE 3:51 P.M.: The McIntosh County Sheriff's Office has now confirmed that Dawson is the man being investigated by the OSBI.

Filed under: Local Crime Exclusive

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