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Luther Mayor Shocked By Former Councilman's Arrest

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James Richard Smith is being held on a $14,000 bond. James Richard Smith is being held on a $14,000 bond.
LUTHER, Oklahoma - James Richard Smith is being held on a $14,000 bond.

He spent more than 12 years on the Luther City Council and was even mayor at one time. And the current mayor is reeling from the allegations.

“I was shocked but I wasn't shocked, said Luther Mayor Birlene Langley.

She has been Luther's mayor for the past year and a half and said she's been friends with Smith for almost 30 years.

She said she feels betrayed by what happened.

6/4/15 Related Story: Authorities: Former Luther Councilman Ordered Inmates To Steal Copper From Tornado Sirens

Langley learned of the investigation into the torn up tornado sirens last year, while Smith was still on the council.

But, she just found out about his arrest Thursday morning.

“It hurts,” said Langley. “It's devastating for us, and his family.”

According to the Oklahoma County Sheriff, Smith instructed three Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmates to remove the wiring from all six of the sirens being held in the back of the town hall. The sirens were given to the county by the city of Del City, which had recently upgraded their tornado siren system.

Sheriff Whetsel said their investigation revealed Smith paid the inmates, who were part of a work release program, $40 each to strip the wiring during a citywide cleanup.


The sheriff said Smith then took all the copper and aluminum inside the wires to a Lincoln County recycling business. He received less the $160 in return, but it will cost the county around $31,000 to repair and replace the sirens.

Investigators said at first, Smith tried to deny his involvement, but after seeing all the evidence he confessed to the crime.

“It is a tragedy that an elected official would destroy life-saving equipment for use within his own community for the protection of his very citizens he was sworn to serve,” said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel at an afternoon news conference.

Mayor Langley said the city of Luther has seen its share of scandals recently, but is concerned the tornado siren scandal could put lives at risk since the town has no tornado warning sirens inside the city limits.

“We're just trying to get corruption out of this town,” said Langley.

Charges against Smith have been presented and accepted by the Oklahoma County DA's office.

The sheriff said the inmates involved will not face any charges since they were acting under the orders of a city councilman.

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