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Christian’s Cryptic Allegations Conclude House Public Safety Committee Meeting

State Rep. Mike Christian during a 2013 press conference at the state Capitol.
Oklahoma House
State Rep. Mike Christian during a 2013 press conference at the state Capitol.

A state lawmaker surprised his colleagues Thursday by levying allegations of corruption against his former employer.

State Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, is a retired state trooper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which is overseen by the Department of Public Safety. Near the end of a committee meeting on Thursday, Christian read from a prepared statement, saying he would file a complaint against the Department of Public Safety.

"This evidence is related to illegal lobbying by DPS officials using taxpayer funds, as well as allegations of corruption,” the Oklahoma City Republican said.

Christian refused to give out any more detail when reached for comment by The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt:

“There’s plenty of witnesses,” Christian said when reached by phone. “It’s been going on a little while.” . . . Christian did not raise the issue with all of his committee before the speech, said state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “He’s trying to bring the whole committee on board with him, and I think that’s unethical,” Wesselhoft said. “We had no idea this was even coming, and we had no chance to ask questions or to object. As soon as he finished, he banged the gavel.”

Christian said he would turn over his evidence to the district attorney, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI. Christian never told his committee about the evidence before speaking. State Rep. Pam Peterson said she was surprised when Christian read his statement, Denwalt writes:

Peterson said the issue might stem from lobbying over Christian’s House Bill 2864, which would consolidate the Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics into a single agency. “I think there’s been people advocating against that in this building, and I think that’s my guess,” said Peterson, R-Tulsa. She said there was no official vote on whether to forward information to law enforcement, and that the issue was not listed on any agenda before the meeting.

OHP Lt. John Vincent is a spokesman for the DPS, and said his agency only heard about the allegations from media reports.

From Denwalt:

“We haven’t been made aware of any of our troopers or anybody doing anything illegal as far as lobbying,” Vincent said. Many state agencies hire legislative liaisons who perform activities similar to lobbyists, but are classified differently under ethics laws. DPS has one liaison, according to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. “Everybody can have an opinion or a view of what’s going on as far as the consolidation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re lobbying or anything,” Vincent said. “If there is an instance, we will look into it and see what’s going on.” Vincent said DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson supports law enforcement consolidation if done correctly to avoid having to come back and fix the law.

The bill narrowly passed a Senate committee on Thursday.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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