Saying he's concerned that justice is not being served in an ongoing corrections probe, a Senate leader is urging a special panel investigating the Lamont Fields release to resist pressure to reach a preconceived conclusion and expand its probe to include Governor Keating's office.
"Judging from the reports I've heard, this so-called investigation has been pretty well orchestrated with one goal in mind," said Senator Larry Dickerson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation.
"That goal is to pin the responsibility for the Lamont Fields' tragedy on anyone but Governor Keating."
Last week, a three member subcommittee of the State Board of Corrections was appointed to investigate the process that led to inmate Fields' early release and the triple homicide which followed. The subcommittee is being guided by Keating appointee Mike Roark, who also serves as chairman of the corrections board.
Although Roark has insisted that his investigation will be objective, Governor Keating has made it clear he will accept nothing less than the ouster of corrections director Larry Fields.
"The reports I've heard indicate that Mr. Roark is simply carrying out Governor Keating's wishes under the pretense of an investigation. Instead of trying to correct whatever flaws might exist in the screening process, the inquiry has been aimed at finding any evidence, even if its trumped up apparently, to point a finger at Larry Fields," said Senator Dickerson.
"I hope those reports are wrong, but I'm not very optimistic."
The Poteau legislator pointed out that a variety of people outside of the Department of Corrections were involved in the inmate screening process, yet the latest inquiry has apparently focused its attention on the DOC alone.
"I know Governor Keating and members of his staff and cabinet were actively involved in the process so I don't understand why the investigation hasn't included them," said Senator Dickerson.
"I'm afraid that if we don't look at the whole process, this tragedy may be repeated in the future."
The Poteau legislator is urging the full corrections board not to succumb to pressure from the Governor's office and fire Larry Fields on the basis of a sham investigation.
"At one time or another, I think every member of the corrections board has expressed respect and support for the job Larry Fields has done. I would urge them to examine Mr. Fields' true record, instead of signing their name to an action that is nothing more than a political smokescreen for Governor Keating.
"I think it's time for cool, responsible leadership."
"The top priority should not be finding a scapegoat. It should be making sure this tragedy is not repeated," said Senator Dickerson.