The city of Owasso has released an 8-year-old investigative report involving a former city official.
The 224-page document, titled the “Fortney Report,” addresses misconduct complaints lodged against former City Manager Rodney Ray in June 2013.
The report recently became public after an Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruling in April 2020 ordered the city to turn over the findings of the investigation, based on an open records request submitted by an Owasso city councilor at the time.
Tulsa County District Judge William LaFortune, in accordance with a mandate issued by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, ordered that the report be released on March 3.
On Feb. 1, 2013, then-City Councilor and Vice Mayor Chris Kelley was driven home by Owasso police after initially being told he was being arrested for DUI. During the traffic stop, Kelley told police he had “had a few drinks,” the Tulsa World reported.
Another Tulsa World article states that in April 2013, Ray was alleged to have ordered the deletion of two police videos showing Kelley’s traffic stop to save the councilor the “embarrassment” of the images reaching the public, a top municipal official said at the time.
Ray was suspended May 24, when an investigation was ordered into his office involving undisclosed employee ethics complaints, and he accepted a resignation agreement on June 25, according to the first article. To investigate the allegations against Ray, the city hired private attorney Guy Fortney, who produced the report.
A Tulsa County grand jury that heard from 38 witnesses and received 116 exhibits over three months returned no indictment, although evidence did show “unethical and/or questionable” actions on Ray’s part “that did not rise to the level of criminal conduct,” the same article states.
The Fortney Report reveals that Ray, who died at age 73 in July, directed the deletion of the videos to prevent residents in the community from obtaining copies of the film to exploit Kelley for political purposes and to protect the Owasso Police Department and the officers involved in the incident.
Ray claimed in the report that council politics “absolutely” had nothing to do with his decision to order the deletion of the videos, rather saying that “at some point, somebody would make that video available, that there could either be an open records request or some police officer could, against policy, make a copy and get it out.”
Ray also clarified that he personally did not delete the videos, stating, “I didn’t destroy it and I didn’t do anything other than authorize and direct its deletion,” the report states.
The Fortney Report contains further details of the investigation, findings of fact and full transcripts of witnesses interviewed following the 2013 incident.
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