OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is taking over the prosecution of a Republican leader in the Oklahoma House accused of several felonies alleging he used his power to change state law so his wife could become a tag agent, Drummond’s office confirmed on Monday.
Drummond takes over the case from new Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna.
Rep. Terry O’Donnell and his wife Teresa both have been charged with multiple felony counts in the alleged scheme. The most serious charge they face is conspiracy against the state, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Behenna said in a statement that she plans to work with Drummond’s office “to make sure these cases are getting the full attention they deserve to protect the people of Oklahoma.”
O’Donnell introduced a bill in 2019 that removed from state law a prohibition on the spouses of legislators serving as tag agents. Three months after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law, the Oklahoma Tax Commission appointed his wife to take over the Catoosa Tag Agency.
O’Donnell and his wife are accused of submitting a fraudulent application to the tax commission, which appoints the state’s more than 300 independent tag agents. Tag agents provide services such as motor vehicle registrations and renewals, and they issue license plates, handle vehicle title transfers and lien releases. They also provide notary services and can issue state and local hunting and fishing licenses.
O’Donnell has denied wrongdoing. He stepped down from his position as No. 2 leader in the House last year after charges were filed, but was reelected in November and remains majority whip in the House.
When asked to comment on the latest development, John Coyle, O’Donnell’s attorney said: “I guess (Drummond) doesn’t have enough to do.”
Coyle added that he didn’t think changing prosecutors would have much of an impact on the case.
Drummond, a Republican, already has taken over the prosecution of several high-profile cases from Behenna’s office, including a criminal probe into a barbecue deal involving the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, a corruption investigation at the Commissioners of the Land Office and the prosecution of the founders and former CFO of Epic Charter Schools.