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Politics and Government

Oklahoma Senator Steps Down From Leadership Positions Amid Embezzlement Probe

Republican state Sen. Rick Brinkley
Oklahoma Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said Monday state Sen. Rick Brinkley has stepped down from his leadership position as he faces an embezzlement investigation.

Bingman said personal matters led to Brinkley’s resignation as assistant majority floor leader, and as the chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Owasso Republican is at the center of an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that $1 million in Better Business Bureau funds were misappropriated during Brinkley’s 15 years leading the nonprofit’s Tulsa chapter.

The Oklahoman’s Rick Green reports the BBB’s board of directors fired Brinkley April 26:

The company sued him Friday in Tulsa County District Court, seeking actual and punitive damages for his “repugnant” conduct. The lawsuit alleges he embezzled funds to support “a hidden gambling habit.” The nonprofit organization wants a judge to block him from transferring assets until he can be forced to return any misappropriated funds. No criminal charges have been filed, and although he has resigned from his chairmanships, Brinkley has not stepped down from his position as a senator.

The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reports the BBB’s lawsuit in Tulsa County District Court alleges Brinkley used embezzled funds to pay his mortgage, credit card debt, and other expenses incurred by a hidden gambling habit. He also set up corporations to conceal the transactions.

The lawsuit alleges that more than $375,000 in fraudulent payments were made over five years. Similar accounts were set up for Barclays Card Services and a company called CTW Inc., it claims. The latter, the suit says, apparently took its name from the title of Brinkley’s book “Communicate to Win.” The suit says records show more than $184,000 flowing into CTW Inc. from Brinkley’s campaign fund and the Better Business Bureau over a five-year period. The alleged scheme is similar to one used by Roger Melson, former audit director of the Land Office Commission, to embezzle more than $1.1 million from 2004-09. Melson set up a phony bank account into which he deposited checks intended for the Land Office. He pleaded guilty to 174 counts of embezzlement in 2010. Friday’s lawsuit says the BBB doesn’t know when Brinkley began the alleged embezzlement, but it documents some allegations going back at least five years. One other allegation, involving a rented storage unit, goes back more than 10 years, according to the court petition. In addition to the fake accounts, the Better Business Bureau alleges that Brinkley took cash advances for business trips he never made, drawing on the organization’s line of credit for his own use and falsifying records to hide discrepancies.

Bingman appointed state Sen. Jason Smalley as the new Pensions Committee chair, and Sen. Marty Quinn will serve as Vice Chair of the Finance Committee. Senate Republicans plan to hold an election to pick a new assistant majority floor leader.

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