Nowata County sheriff, staff resign over jail safety issues

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NOWATA, Okla. – The Nowata County Sheriff, undersheriff and over half of the deputies have resigned over safety issues at the county jail.

Sheriff Terry Barnett announced the resignations Monday. Barnett detailed multiple unresolved problems at the lockup, including carbon monoxide leaks and exposed electrical wires.

Barnett and Undersheriff Mark Kirschner say they quit because Nowata County Associate District Judge Carl Gibson pressured them to reopen the jail nearly three weeks after inmates were evacuated from the facility. Fourteen detainees were transferred to the Washington County jail in Bartlesville after the safety issues emerged Feb. 28.

Barnett alleges Gibson said he could increase her salary to $75,000 if inmates were returned to county jail, despite the problems.

Nowata County Courthouse officials say Gibson declined to comment on the allegations.

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