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Oklahoma Pardon and Parole chief resigns after alleged threat from board member


Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Steve Bickley has resigned in a letter to the board in which he said he had been threatened for doing his job.

Bickley on Friday confirmed he has resigned effective Aug. 7. He declined to comment further.

Bickley took several days off after member Allen McCall, a retired judge, sent him an email accusing him of injecting anti-death penalty options on the board.

McCall, appointed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, told Bickley in the email, "Shame on you for the underhanded and deceitful way you have used your position to impose your personal beliefs on your staff and our Board."

McCall in the email said he would move for Bickley's termination and asked to appear before the state's multicounty grand jury to present evidence of multiple violations of law by Bickley and others.

McCall could not be reached for comment.

"While I have found public service very fulfilling, I cannot tolerate my current work environment," Bickley wrote Wednesday in an email to Pardon and Parole Board administrators. "Policy disagreements have turned into personal attacks rather than public discussion."

Bickley wrote that board members are actively seeking to create conflict between himself and staff.

"I have been threatened for doing my job," Bickley wrote.

"It is my sincere hope these issues are alleviated before the next executive director takes his or her post," Bickley wrote. "I wish the board, the agency, and staff well."

Bickley was tapped in July 2019 to head the agency. He served as an executive for the Museum of the Bible and is a former telecommunications executive.

"I support Steve Bickley and his work over the last year," Pardon and Parole Board Member Adam Luck posted on social media. "He and his team helped oversee the largest commutation in US history, dealt with a 118 percent increase in cases, and ensured continuity of our work in the midst of a pandemic while many other state boards postponed meetings."

Luck said Bickley's performance was outstanding.

"I understand his reasons for resigning and also find it hard to imagine working in the environment created by this situation," Luck wrote.

He said the situation and implications for the standard of conduct acceptable for board members was "shocking."

Pardon and Parole Board Chairman Robert Gilliland said the board this month is expected to vote on a resolution expressing appreciation for Bickley's service, adding that he has no doubt it will pass.

Bickley initially told the board that he could only commit to 90 days as executive director, but stayed for over a year, Gilliland said.

"By and large, he had unwavering support of a majority of board members," Gilliland said.

Board member Larry Morris was appointed by the Court of Criminal Appeals while Luck, Gilliland and Kelly Doyle were appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The governor said Bickley's leadership of the Pardon and Parole Board had brought "transformational change and momentum" that was "invaluable in helping us move the needle in public safety and criminal justice reform in Oklahoma." He pointed to statistics that show over the past year the state's inmate population has dropped 13%, while crime and recidivism rates also declined.

"This data shows that Director Bickley successfully led his team to execute on the mission and vision of the Board by making our state a safer place to live, while also offering our fellow Oklahomans a second chance and saving taxpayers over $50 million in the process," Stitt said in a prepared statement.