A group of five current and former Grady County employees filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Grady County and District 1 Commissioner Michael Walker, claiming Walker intentionally retaliated against them for cooperating with an OSBI probe.
Oklahoma City attorney Mark Hammons filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group and claims Walker set up surveillance equipment to spy on employees who were cooperating with state investigators.
Walker “took steps to find out who it was that was supplying information, including, apparently bugging some of the offices unlawfully,” Hammons said.
Bret Burns, Walker’s attorney, said the surveillance footage was installed as a standard security measure and refutes the claims Walker surveilled on the employees.
“This surveillance system was installed to detect and prevent theft from the county,” Burns said in a statement to News 9. “There was no bad intent during the use of this surveillance system and there is nothing illegal about a county barn operating a security system. Again, the individuals making these accusations are disgruntled former county employees who had their employment terminated by Commissioner Walker.”
Special prosecutor Brian Hermanson charged Walker in May with embezzling county funds to make repairs to a private road on which Walker lived following an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
Office Manager Janna Titler and road workers Jeff Autry, Zachary Davis, and Larry Brown claim Walker fired them because of their cooperation with state investigators, which began around August 2020.
Zane Terry still works for the county as a road worker but claims in the lawsuit Walker has harassed him to the point where he’s had to take off work.
“The retaliation and harassment was in the form of yelling, screaming, acting in an assaultive behavior (Walker had physically assaulted Terry in the past),” read the lawsuit petition filed Wednesday in the U.S. Western District Court of Oklahoma. “The harassment became so severe that Plaintiff Terry was required to take off work starting December 28, 2021 due to stress.”
News 9 obtained the records for a $7,298 purchase of surveillance equipment for a new section of a county building, which included 15 cameras. The purchase order also included an “app to remotely arm/disarm” the cameras.
Titler provided News 9 pictures of one of the cameras, which she said was installed behind her desk.
Walker’s criminal embezzlement trial is scheduled for March, according to special prosecutor Brian Hermanson.