D.A. Investigating Questionable Memo in Lawmakers' Corruption Scandal
By Adrianna Iwasinski, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A questionable memo is just the latest development in the corruption probe into whether a state senator agreed to give up her seat in exchange for a high paying job at the embattled Medical Examiner's office.
The memo was from the Attorney General's office and was written to the M.E.'s office and board as a whole, but more specifically to Tom Jordan, who was the M.E.'s Chief Administrative Officer, who resigned last month.
The letter was written by Sandra Balzer, the Assistant Attorney General who serves as the A.G.'s liaison to the Medical Examiner's office. The memo stated that it is a response to questions posed by Jordan about whether the M.E.'s office could hire a legislator for the newly created position listed in Senate Bill 738.
Balzer wrote, "At issue are the requirement to offer the position on or before July 1, 2010 and whether a current legislator whose term expires in 2010 would be eligible to fill the position."
She went on to state that hiring a legislator for the position of transition coordinator would violate a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that prevents lawmakers from taking state jobs for two years after their term ends.
The D.A. is investigating. The M.E.'s office said they are not able to comment.
"We feel like since it is not our investigation, we did not launch it, and it is not in our hands that it is really not appropriate for us to comment on an ongoing investigation," said M.E. Spokesperson Cherokee Ballard.
Right now Republican State Representatives Randy Terrill and Mike Christian and Democratic State Senator Debbe Leftwich are under investigation, but more could follow.
The investigation is all the talk at the state capitol as lawmakers file for their candidacy.
"When it rises to the level of trading public resources for public jobs on less than the merits, even less idealistic people could get concerned about that," said Pat McGuigan, political writer for CapitolBeatOK.
Terrill and Christian have publicly denied the allegations that they conspired with Leftwich to resign her seat so Christian could run for it and in return give Leftwich the proposed job with the M.E.'s office.
Terrill and Christian have blasted the D.A. for announcing the investigation right before the filing period, but NEWS 9 legal analyst Irven Box defends the move.
"I think he has done something timely. It's unfortunate for those involved that it's election time, but that's his job to do, is to look and seek if there's violation of the law," Box said.
Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill that would have created that position in light of the investigation.
A multicounty grand jury is set to look into the political corruption allegations when it meets in July.