Temps to warm up as we get closer to the weekend

Texas political consultant subpoenaed in GPS tracking investigation of Oklahoma legislator

OKLAHOMA CITY - A long-time Texas political consultant was subpoenaed earlier this month to testify in connection to an investigation of a GPS tracking device found on a state legislator's vehicle.

According to a grand jury subpoena issued February 16, an Oklahoma County judge wants George C. Shipley, of Austin, to testify before the Oklahoma Multicounty Grand Jury in the coming days. His testimony relates to his connection to a private investigation firm and its connection to the tracking unit found on State Rep. Mark McBride's truck last December.

McBride, R-Moore, contacted the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on December 1, 2017, believing someone was following him, according to court records. In the grand jury subpoena affidavit, an OSBI agent says a friend of McBride had told him the "wind group" wanted to discredit McBride, who has been critical of the industry and its subsidies in the state.

Days later, on December 4, McBride discovered a GPS tracking device under the bed of his pickup truck.

"Have you testified before the multi-county grand jury?” I asked McBride Wednesday.

“I have not," he said after a long pause. "I talked quite a bit with OSBI, over a long period of time. Well, since I first knew of the threat and then after the device was found on my vehicle.”

"I can’t comment one way or the other where that’s headed. All I can say is I’m going to take this as far I can take it," McBride said, in between committee meetings. "This shouldn’t happen to anybody. Yes, I’m a legislator. And this shouldn’t happen to an elected official, but it shouldn’t happen to John Doe in the public, either."

According to civil filings in Oklahoma County court and the grand jury affidavit, the tracking device traced back to Eastridge Investigations and a contact named HL Christensen. Eastridge Investigations is a private investigation firm based in Tuttle, Oklahoma. The company's owner, Kyle Eastridge, was interviewed by an OSBI agent, along with Christensen, and their attorney Danny Shadid, according to the affidavit. Eastridge declined to comment when I spoke to him at his home Wednesday. Calls to Shadid were not returned.

"I learned Eastridge Investigations client for the Mark McBride investigation was a Mr. George Shipley from Austin, Texas," wrote OSBI Special Agent Steve Tanner in the affidavit. "Through an Internet search, I also learned the 'Wind Coalition' offices at the same address as Mr. Shipley, 919 Congress Ave., Austin, Texas."

However, according to KFOR'S NBC sister station, KXAN-TV, officials at the office building said Shipley and his company, Shipley & Associates, moved out about three years ago.

And according to The Wind Coalition, an Austin, Texas-based wind energy trade association and lobbying group, it hasn't been in that office building since 2012.

"I have not hired, nor has The Wind Coalition hired, any entity, including Mr. Shipley, to conduct opposition research on candidates or officeholders," said The Wind Coalition President Jeff Clark in a statement late Wednesday night. "Our office has not been contacted about this case by any investigator. From the beginning, this has appeared to be a politically-motivated event and we look forward to learning more as the matter is investigated and the facts are presented."

OSBI is not commenting.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case. McBride is currently suing the tracking device manufacturer, Christensen, Eastridge Investigations and Asset Protection, Inc., in Oklahoma County court for damages more than $10,000.

According to Texas court records, Shipley is scheduled to appear before a Travis County, Texas judge Friday morning.