Sen. Coffee Says He Doesn't Know Who Added New M.E.'s Position to Bill
By Adrianna Iwasinski, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Sen. President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee held a press conference Tuesday at the State Capitol to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding a political corruption investigation involving three state lawmakers and the embattled M.E.'s office.
The press conference was the first time Coffee spoke out since news broke about an investigation into possible political corruption involving his fellow lawmakers and a senate bill he authored.
Coffee began the press conference by reading a prepared statement, but things got heated when he started taking questions from the media and refused to answer some pressing questions at hand.
"Who added the language to the bill to add that transition position?" asked a reporter during the press conference.
"It's a very good question. The answer to your question is more complex than it might seem," Coffee responded.
Coffee was notably uncomfortable when pressed about that question.
"I don't have an answer for you today. I have been getting up to speed on the issue in the last 72 hours, and I don't have an answer for that question," Coffee said.
Coffee said he had been out of town on a family trip when news broke of an investigation linking fellow Senator Debbie Leftwich, Representative Mike Christian and Representative Randy Terrill to possible political corruption.
Oklahoma County District attorney David Prater is investigating whether Terrill conspired with Leftwich to give up her senate seat so Christian could run for it, and in exchange, Leftwich would get a high-paying position with the Medical Examiner's office, a position that was mysteriously added to Senate Bill 738 without anyone's knowledge.
"I don't know who added the language. I don't have that information. Until I've had a chance to make an inquiry, I can't comment or respond to questions I don't know the answer to," Coffee said.
Coffee defended his position on authoring and signing Senate Bill 738, which he stated was supposed to help reform the embattled Medical Examiner's office. He said reform is something he's been pursuing for the past two years, though he admitted he did sign the conference committee report and defended the position. He said he did not request it, nor does he know who did.
"I did not dictate nor did I direct who should be or would be hired for the position of transition coordinator," Coffee said.
Senator Coffee said he blames the hectic pace of the final days of session as an excuse for how this confusion could have happened.
"With all that happens in the closing days, all legislative staff is active in drafting and amending bills, and I don't micromanage who works on what bills," Coffee said.
Coffee was also asked if he thinks the legislative system should be fixed.
"I am a term limited legislator, and the next legislature will have the opportunity to address those sort of issues if they choose," Coffee said.
Despite the controversy, Coffee defended the job he did representing his district, saying he has had a very active and rewarding 12 years. Whether he will truly investigate who added the legislation is yet to be seen.
The District Attorney confirmed that Medical Examiner spokesperson Cherokee Ballard and Former Chief Administrative Officer Tom Jordan came forward with information and are witnesses in the investigation.
Coffee said he has not been called as a witness in the investigation.
A multicounty grand jury is set to meet in July.
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