Mitchell, Branson share concerns, issue with recent decisions
Recent changes in supervision of Okmulgee County 911 Communications, along with media reports and interviews, accusations of alleged ‘unlawful’ meetings and other activities, has caused lots of concern in the community. Okmulgee County leaders, emergency responders and others are concerned with what’s being reported, and feel they are being attacked and want to set the record straight.
The Okmulgee Times recently sat down with Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority Executive Director Shannon Clark as he addressed a TV media report about the matter.
After reading the articles published in the Times, Beggs Mayor Jacob Branson, who was featured in the TV segment, along with Beggs Rural Fire Chief Rick Mitchell, who also volunteers with the City of Beggs, contacted the newspaper and wanted to share their side of the matter, along with concerns and frustrations they are experiencing.
— Part 1
Their anger and frustration has reached a point… “I’m not doing this because I have a personal agenda or a grudge against anybody or the county or anything like that,” Mayor Jacob Branson said to start off the interview. “I’m simply standing up for the people in the county, and the people of the City of Beggs … It’s starting to affect them.”
Branson and Mitchell expressed their frustration with recent happenings with 911 Communications, adding that dispatch problems are still occurring.
Mitchell stated that several weeks ago, at a meeting that involved several emergency response officials from the county, he was asked by one person why the radio system was not working for the Morris area.
“I went down there because the repeater is working,” Mitchell said. “I can tell you, the radio systems are working fine. So somebody calls … and tells him, ‘Hey, I hear you just fine. I called 911 and they said they don’t hear you.’ So I told him that if that guy hears you, then 911 has the problem.”
Mitchell learned that alleged 911 dispatch had the radio on mute.
He fears that it’s going back to the problems in the early years of 911 dispatch, when it was moved, with several tragedies allegedly related to wrong addresses being given out.
He added that things have been working great over the years since then, and all agencies are getting along, and the recent change is causing problems to resurface.
Mitchell added that “it just seems like for some reason, all these out-oftowners came in and are in charge, and took everything over and it’s all about money. And they don’t give a crap about anything.
“Not one person since 911 was changed over, not one person has come and said, ‘hey, what can we do to help? What do you want us to do? Or how do you want it done or anything, or you have any problems?’ No one has said squat.”
Mitchell also addressed some alleged meetings between county commissioners at a local restaurant.
“We heard rumors (about a meeting) because a lady in the booth behind them called and told us, ‘Hey, you guys might want to be aware of what they’re fixing to do.’ And it happened at the next meeting – word for word. She (the caller) didn’t know us, she doesn’t have a ‘dog in this fight.”
Both Branson and Mitchell stated their unhappiness on the 911 issue as they, and other fire departments, were ‘assured that there were not going to be any changes.’
“A month later,” Mitchell said, “he (a county commissioner) did it. So I confronted him and he wouldn’t meet with us…” When Mitchell was able to finally meet with him, he asked about what was told to the departments.
“You said you wouldn’t do this. You lied to us,” Mitchell said. “‘No I didn’t. You must have heard me wrong.’” Mitchell said that he informed him that the meeting was recorded.
“There’s a whole room of firemen … It’s a good thing we chose that room because we have cameras in there. We recorded everything you said.”
Branson added there is another recording of members of 911 dispatch being informed that the change wouldn’t be happening.
“He came to me, caught me at the store and said, ‘What can I do to reset this? Because it’s gotten out of hand and this is not what we want,’” Branson said. “I said, ‘I tell you what, the first thing you need to do, as soon as possible, is go down and apologize and talk to all those ladies who work at dispatch,’ because they’re all basically crying because they don’t know if they’re gonna have a job tomorrow. ‘So that’s where I would start, you know. You’re supposed to be their boss, you’re over 911 right now. I don’t think that’s any way a boss should treat its employees.’ So he went down there and set up a meeting with them and told them in that meeting, that this was not going to happen.’” “And then it happened at the next meeting,” Mitchell said. “And so it’s like they’re doing stuff to think we’re dumb enough to believe it. They do it just to give them time to go ahead and do it.”
-In Part 2, Mitchell and Branson speak on matters of concern and the search for answers.