Hooten Resigns Facing Removal

Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten has resigned while facing allegations of sexual harassment.

Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten said he resigned from office Friday rather than fight a removal effort, even though he continues to deny wrongdoing.

“I’m not putting my family through that,” he said Thursday.

County Clerk Hooten, a Republican, was first elected county clerk in 2016.  He said he will continue his bid to become the next state treasurer.

“I’m going to go all out for that,” he said.

District Attorney David Prater had planned to ask county commissionery this week to begin the process of having Clerk Hooten immediately suspended and eventually removed “on the grounds of oppression in office, corruption in office and willful maladministration.”

A decision on his immediate suspension would have been made by an Oklahoma County judge. Mr. Hooten would have been entitled to a jury trial on the removal accusations.

Prater chose to act after a sheriff’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment by two female employees within Hooten’s office.

County Clerk Hooten the media earlier Thursday he would not resign because he had done nothing wrong.

“This is a witch hunt that I’ve never seen the likes of,” Clerk Hooten said.  “They’re trying to take a duly elected official out of office and affecting my second election.”

Mr. Hooten, 59, also faces a sexual harassment lawsuit related to the female employees’ claims filed last week in Oklahoma City federal court. 

The board of county commissioners is named as a co-defendant in the suit.

County Clerk Hooten called allegations of sexual harassment “not possible.”  He said he’d “never done that.”

“The allegations and the lawsuit against Clerk David Hooten are very serious and cause me a great deal of concern,” County Commissioner Brian Maughan said.

What prompted the investigation into David Hooten’s behavior?

According to an investigation report from the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, the female employees were called into a private meeting with Hooten on April 26. 

One of the women recorded the meeting because Clerk Hooten had threatened to fire her and failed to take action on complaints regarding her supervisor, investigators said.

During the meeting, Hooten discussed a mandatory team-building exercise, the report said.

“He states he is going to take them to their limits and do things people don’t normally do,” the report states.  “Mr. Hooten does not tell them what he has planned and speaks of them being very sore.”

Sheriff’s investigators refer to Hooten’s statements as “quite concerning.”  They said he told the women there would be drinking and gambling, but that he had been “genetically altered so he doesn’t get drunk, no matter what.”

“Mr. Hooten states the alcohol won’t have an effect on him, but he hopes that it will have an effect on them,” the report says.

In interviews with investigators, the women described a work environment prone to hostility and frustration caused by a lack of intervention by Hooten in their initial complaints.  They also raised concerns regarding their safety due to a possible “date rape situation” because of his statements about alcohol, according to the report.

“She feared, after hearing this statement, she was being forced into a situation where sexual assault of some nature was a possibility and because Mr. Hooten had threatened to fire her multiple times in the past, she could lose her job if she did not participate,” the report states.

Human resources officer found David Hooten’s statements ‘very odd.’

Investigators also interviewed Karen Kint, the county human resources director who looked into the employee complaints.  Kint said Hooten reiterated during her investigation his claims of being “genetically altered” and unaffected by alcohol due to a chemical put in his brain.

“Hooten stated to Ms. Kint that this was done because he travels to Europe a lot and spends a lot of time with royalty from various countries,” the report says.

Kint told sheriff’s investigators that she found Mr. Hooten’s statements “very odd.”

The incident is not the first time Hooten has faced accusations from employees for inappropriate behavior.  In Nov. 2018, the county settled an age and race discrimination suit brought against Clerk Hooten by former employee Leona Porter.

According to Mrs. Porter’s lawsuit, the then 75-year-old was required to sit in a rocking chair and greet people as they passed or entered the county clerk’s office.  Mrs. Porter likened the situation to “Aunt Jemima sitting on the front porch of the master’s house,” calling it both degrading and humiliating.

Clerk Hooten opposed the settlement with Porter and denied any racism or mistreatment, saying he had been “set up.”

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