Sallisaw Mayor Shannon Vann decided to use the public candidate forum last week to address the controversy regarding former Police Chief Shaloa Edwards.
“I want to address a negative that’s been in our community recently head on. The recent controversy over the police chief’s alleged actions and the debate by some as to the handling of these allegations continues,” Vann said during his opening statement at the Jan. 14 political forum sponsored by the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce.
Vann told Your TIMES that his reason for voting to take powers away from Edwards in February 2013 was because of allegations of illegal activity.
During his opening statement Vann eluded to new allegations that had been brought forward.
“There were other allegations beyond the embezzlement allegations that needed to be investigated,” Vann said. “In October, I was made aware that the OSBI was finally investigating these other allegations. It is my understanding this was prompted by a new allegation made to an outside law enforcement agency.”
Vann went on to say that he didn’t know the results of the investigation or if Edwards would face additional criminal charges. He said at that time he was contacted by Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart about Edwards.
“I was also advised by the Sheriff that he had been in contact with the city attorney and the city manager at that time regarding the possibility of the chief resigning,” Vann said.
“I only bring this up because I’m tired of the lies and the attacks led against me and other members of the city council and the city staff. I will take whatever actions are appropriate to protect the citizens regardless of elected officials such as our state representative and former chief Edwards in making political threats to coerce me and others to ignore or not report possible wrong doing,” Vann concluded.
Lockhart confirmed that OSBI was given a case file containing allegations against Edwards.
“Some of it’s true and some of it’s not,” Lockhart said regarding comments made by Vann during the forum. He confirmed that what Vann said during the opening statement was correct. Lockhart disagreed with Vann’s later statements concerning the jail.
Lockhart said that when OSBI officials were in the process of investigating allegations against Sallisaw Police Officer John Weber, Lockhart was contacted by the city attorney and the city manager about a file that contained statements and information regarding allegations against Edwards.
He said he was asked to investigate the allegations and to turn the file over to the OSBI.
“That’s what I did,” Lockhart said.
According to Lockhart the statute of limitations had expired for prosecution on several of the allegations, but during the course of looking into them new allegations emerged.
Lockhart said Edwards was interviewed by the OSBI, as were several other Sallisaw Police Officers and some of the possible victims.
“I then contacted Shaloa’s attorney about the possibility of new allegations being brought forward,” Lockhart said.
He said during the process of updating Baker and John Robert Montgomery, Sallisaw City Atorney, about what was taking place it, was brought up that Edwards should resign.
“That information was passed on to Shaloa and his attorney,” Lockhart said. “After talking to him (Edwards) about it I think he was just tired of it all and wanted to move forward.”
Lockhart said he didn’t know the status of any further investigation on the part of OSBI.
Jessica Brown, OSBI spokesperson was sent an email about the matter by Your TIMES. She will be out of town until later in the week. Attempts to reach Edwards for comment on his home and cell phone were unsuccessful.
When contacted about Vann’s statements, State Representative John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said he did not make political threats to Vann nor did he want Vann to ignore wrongdoing.