Democrats Claim Senate Leader Abusing Power


Wednesday, April 8th 2009, 6:38 pm
By: News 9


By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Senate Pro Tem Glenn Coffee filed a bill late Tuesday that would change how the director of the Department of Corrections is hired.

The measure, a floor substitute for House Bill 1965, recommends that the Governor be the one to appoint the DOC director. Currently, the Board of Corrections has that responsibility.

"The Governor ought to have a hand in corrections policy, and able to appoint their person there," Sen. Coffee said.

Sen. Coffee has been under fire for late federal taxes and unpaid speeding tickets. Now, some senate democrats believe this measure is a retaliation against the DOC and an abuse of power. Some are raising questions too, though not about the language in the measure, but its timing.

The measure was filed Tuesday hours before an interview with NEWS 9 in which Coffee denied plans to close three state prisons. However, newly-released documents from DOC director Justin Jones revealed preliminary plans to close the three state prisons.

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The timing of this new measure is coincidental, Coffee said, and he has no problem working with Jones' leadership.

"I think he's worked well with me. We had a disagreement about one meeting. I'm not upset with him. This isn't retribution," Sen. Coffee said.

"This is another example of 'If you don't agree with Senator Coffee, there's consequences and retribution,'" Sen. Kenneth Corn said.

Democratic Senator Kenneth Corn, who once chaired the public safety committee in the Senate, questions the timing of this measure.

"It's clearly, I think, an abuse of power. Your story came out and then later this afternoon, we had this amendment filed," Sen. Corn said.

The amendment has nothing to do with the original House Bill it replaced. That bill was designed to overhaul the state medical examiner's office. Coffee said there was a similar measure already in place, so he decided to introduce the amendment as a means to overhaul the DOC. He said Senator Corn is politicizing the issue.

"He's uninformed and has a lack of knowledge of the decision making behind this decision. I simply disagree with him," Sen. Coffee said.

Corn said he will oppose this bill and will raise objections to it on the floor when it's introduced for a vote, which is expected to happen within two weeks.