General counsel for Oklahoma State Department of Health resigns amid criminal investigation

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The general counsel for the state health department has resigned, officials have confirmed.

Julie Ezell resigned as a general counsel for the Oklahoma State Health Department effective immediately, according to OSDH public information officer Tony Sellars.

Ezell’s resignation was accepted on Friday, three days after the Board of Health approved emergency rules on medical marijuana, including two amendments that would ban the sale of smokable medical marijuana at dispensaries and require pharmacists to be on-site of dispensaries.

Ezell advised the Board of Health not to approve those amendments.

Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates told reporters last Tuesday, Ezell did a “fine job” with the rules.

“There are certain areas where, again, reasonable people can differ and lawyers can differ,” Bates continued on Tuesday. “Today the board acted. They did their job and they fulfilled their role in this process.”

Last week, at least two lawsuits were filed regarding the new emergency rules.

One was filed in Cleveland County on behalf of eight petitioners represented by the Bussett Legal Group.

Attorney Rachel Bussett claims there were several missteps in the OSDH’s rule-making process. The lawsuit alleges the Open Meetings Act was violated because the agency did not publish proposed amendments before the Board of Health took them to a vote.

A separate lawsuit was filed on behalf of the pro-cannabis group Green the Vote, based out of Tulsa.

Sellars told News 4, the agency could not comment on why Ezell resigned as it is a personnel matter.

On Tuesday afternoon, court documents obtained by News 4 showed that Ezell has been charged with using a computer for the purpose of violating Oklahoma statutes, falsely reporting a crime and preparing false evidence.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation after Ezell reported receiving threats regarding the newly passed marijuana laws.

Ezell claimed to have received an email that threatened to "show up in force" if the government continued trying to "erase the laws."

"We will expose your corruption and evil. We would hate to hurt a pretty lady. You will hear us. We are just beginning," one email claimed.

However, investigators were able to determine that Ezell's cell phone accessed the email account that sent the threatening messages.

Court documents show that Ezell admitted to making the email account and and sending threats to her government email address.

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