Associate District Judge Bob Hughey said it would be impossible for him to access, by computer, confidential juvenile cases outside of Canadian County.
His opponent, Piedmont attorney Rachel Bussett, recently accused him of doing that and suggested Hughey may have broken state law.
Hughey will face Bussett in the November general election. The winner will serve as Canadian County associate district judge and will oversee the operations of the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center.
The center is funded by a permanent countywide sales tax and generates millions of dollars annually for operations and programs. It currently has a reserve fund of about $9 million.
Hughey has served in the associate district judge position full time since 2012. He has been involved in juvenile cases and issues for a decade.
In a recent newspaper article, Bussett alleged Hughey used his state-owned computer to promote the idea that she has very little experience working in juvenile court matters.
The story was published last month in the Yukon Progress. Bussett is the attorney for the Yukon Progress and Progress Publisher Randy Anderson has contributed $2,700 to her campaign.
The story said Hughey declined to speak to a Progress reporter about the matter, citing the fact its publisher has contributed the maximum amount allowable to Bussett’s campaign.
“I have nothing to gain by talking to you. Your newspaper contributed $2,700 to my opponent and I have no further comment,” the article quoted Hughey as telling the Progress reporter.
Hughey said Bussett’s accusation is without merit. He said as associate district judge of Canadian County, he is able to only access files inside the county legal system.
“Even a judge can’t access confidential files outside of the county,” Hughey said. “The system won’t allow it, the computer won’t allow it.”
He said the accusations are being made because Bussett actually has little experience in juvenile matters.
“She’s appeared on my docket one time,” Hughey said. He said over the years he has never seen Bussett attend conferences or training events related to juvenile matters.
“I believe she just started becoming active in these areas after announcing her candidacy,” Hughey said.
Bussett did not return a phone call made to her Oklahoma City office seeking comment.
Hughey said he stands on his record and points to juvenile programs created under his direction, specifically a truancy program.
Hughey said prior to the creation of the countywide truancy program, the dropout rate in Canadian County was at or near the state average. Three county districts were above the state average and El Reno High School had a staggering 18.8 percent dropout rate in 2009, Hughey said.
The truancy program, begun in 2011, brought together schools, the district attorney, Department of Human Services and county law enforcement.
“In 2016, the dropout rate for El Reno High School was one half of 1 percent,” Hughey said.
The program runs from kindergarten through high school graduation and Hughey credits it with not only lowering the dropout rate across the county, but also identifying children who might be suffering from abuse or neglect.
“DHS wasn’t sure about the program until we pointed out truancy is one of the early indicators of possible abuse or neglect,” Hughey said.
Hughey said other programs that have proven effective in helping children and families is the supervised visitation program offered at the juvenile center as well as a mock trial program.
The mock trial effort brings youngsters to the juvenile center where they witness a mock trial for someone their age who has allegedly broken the law.
“It makes an impact when the kids see the consequences of someone their age being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs,” Hughey said.
Cell phone and Internet safety training for parents and children also have been coordinated under Hughey’s leadership, he said.