OSBI Investigates State Board Of Pharmacy Director For Bribery

Friday, July 20th 2018, 3:22 pm

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether the director of the State Board of Pharmacy tried to bribe a health department attorney into changing rules on medical marijuana.

It’s the latest chapter in a scandal filled story involving the State Department of Health. 

Not long after the State Department of Health was caught using a slush fund to hide millions of dollars from the legislature, leading to hundreds of layoffs, the agency was charged with overseeing medical marijuana. And the controversy continues.

The State Attorney General sent a letter to the Board of Health saying it overstepped its authority imposing rules requiring, among other things, pharmacists to be present at medical marijuana dispensaries. 

This week, the agency’s top attorney, Julie Ezell, was charged after OSBI determined she sent threats to herself. 

Read: OSDH General Counsel Resigns, Stands Accused Of Falsifying Threats

Meanwhile, text messages obtained by NonDoc.com show the director of the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy apparently offering Ezell a job if she wrote a rule requiring the pharmacists.

The text, reportedly from board of pharmacy director Chelsea Church, read: “You get me a pharmacist in dispensary and then come to our office. I guarantee I can do more than you have now”

"It appeared to be some kind of quid pro quo and that's shocking to me as a taxpayer and as a citizen and makes me angry as a representative,” said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader.

OSBI says it is investigating Church at the request of the Oklahoma County District Attorney. 

Ezell did not include the pharmacist requirement in her proposal, but the Board of Health voted to add it as an amendment. 

"This board at the health department seems to have a major problem. And you can't keep the same board, same people there when you continue to have these problems,” said Representative Bobby Cleveland (R) Norman. “The board needs to be disbanded."

Lawmakers this year passed legislation that would strip the board of its power in January and make it an advisory board to a governor-appointed health director. 

Lawmakers say the problems at the Department of Health are just a symptom of a much bigger problem of boards controlling state agencies with little oversight.

"You have an unelected unaccountable board making decisions on policy but they're not accountable to the governor, they're not accountable to the house of representatives or the senate. So I believe reform, it's coming,” said Representative Mike Sanders (R) Majority Leader.

Cleveland added, "The process sucks.  What's happened here is just absolutely wrong."

After the announcement of the investigation into Church, the medical marijuana advocacy group “Green The Vote” amended its lawsuit filed against the State Health Department to include both Church and Ezell.

Green The Vote says Oklahomans for Health have also joined their fight against the State Health Department.

SEE: Group Amends Lawsuit Filed Against OSDH Concerning Medical Marijuana Rules