Oklahoma Pharmacy Board working to find replacement after executive director is fired

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Pharmacy Board announced that it plans to name an interim executive director at its next meeting after the former director was fired.

Chelsea Church, who had served as executive director of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy for nearly a year, was fired on Wednesday after the board voted unanimously to terminate her employment.

The vote came after text messages showed that Church was communicating with Oklahoma State Health Department general counsel Julie Ezell.

In the messages, Church appears to have offered Ezell a job and a guaranteed pay raise in exchange for including the pharmacist requirement in the emergency rules regarding medical marijuana, days before the board of health met to take up the drafted regulations.

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Since NonDoc's report on the text messages, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has asked the OSBI to look into the messages sent between Church and Ezell, as it appeared there was an attempt to influence and possibly bribe Ezell. He's also tasked state investigators to figure out if there were attempts to threaten, influence or bribe anyone related to the state board of health.

"We are cooperating fully with the ongoing OSBI investigation," said Pharmacy Board President Kyle Whitehead. "Further, we will work with urgency to find an interim executive director, who will uphold our mission of protecting the health and well being of Oklahomans. The accusations involving Ms. Church are being taken seriously and because of the nature of the investigation, there will be no further comment regarding her status with the board."

In a statement to News 4, Church's attorney called the board's action "hasty" and "unwarranted."

"Ms. Church received a positive performance evaluation in July of 2018 and a raise," said Tracy Schumacher. "The text message between she and Ms. Ezell is not the full picture here.  There was no nefarious plan between the two to put pharmacists in dispensaries.  She was tasked with doing so by the Pharmacy Board and by the inter-agency meetings between the Health Department, (Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics) and Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.  These meetings began in May of 2018."

Ezell resigned from her post as general counsel in the days after the emergency rules were approved by the board.

She was charged last week with criminal felony charges for allegedly emailing fake threats to herself in the days surrounding the presentation and voting on the emergency rules she helped draft.

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