An advocate for Oklahoma seniors has urged a judge in a letter to make a former Senate leader convicted of bribery “suffer the consequences of his poor judgment.”
“Until one is made to pay for poor judgment, this type of activity will continue at our state Capitol,” longtime lobbyist Mary Brinkley wrote in a Nov. 19 letter.
Former Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan is to be sentenced Jan. 8 in federal court in Oklahoma City.
U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron will decide his punishment.
Lobbyist testified during trial
Brinkley is the executive director of LeadingAge Oklahoma, an association of nonprofit organizations that provide services to the aging.
She testified in February as a prosecution witness at Morgan's trial.
Morgan, 57, of Stillwater, was convicted by a jury of accepting $12,000 in bribes from a company that operated assisted-living centers.
Company owner Sam Crosby told jurors he met with Morgan at the Capitol in May 2006 and asked Morgan for help — possibly legislatively — to get state health officials off his back.
He testified Morgan, an attorney, said to him, “This is the way it works: You pay me a $1,000-a-month retainer.”
Morgan in 2007 was the author of assisted-living legislation known as Senate Bill 738.
It became law after it was amended.
Brinkley testified at trial that the original bill would have allowed people to stay in assisted-living centers indefinitely, even after they needed the care that nursing homes provide.
She testified she lobbied for changes once the bill went to the state House.
In her letter, she told the judge: “When I first read SB 738, I knew it was a bad bill, and was not in the best interest of the elderly who reside in assisted living centers. Over the next few months, it became very clear that this bill had another ‘agenda' and that is why it was pushed to get passed.
“Senator Mike Morgan would not meet with me to discuss this bill. I have never had an elected leader at the Capitol refuse to listen to my concerns of proposed legislation,” she wrote.
“Nearly 500 people might have written to say that Senator Mike Morgan is a good man, but that doesn't change what he did. His efforts to pass SB 738 would have jeopardized the lives of nearly 10,000 frail elderly citizens of our state in order to bolster more profit for assisted living providers,” she wrote.
“Good people make mistakes. But in this case, this would not have been just a mistake. It was complete disregard for the elderly.”
Morgan's attorneys criticize letter
Her letter was made public Thursday by Morgan's attorneys, who criticized it in a legal filing.
“Mrs. Brinkley fails to understand that all Mr. Morgan did or intended to do was introduce the original shell bill so that the various parties, lobbyists and groups would have (a) vehicle to address the problems,” the attorneys wrote.
Morgan denied taking bribes.
He testified at trial that Crosby paid him $1,000 a month for a year for legal services.
He also testified he introduced the assisted-living legislation in 2007 for a trade association representing all assisted-living facilities, and not for Crosby.
Leniency is sought
Morgan was Senate president pro tem in 2005 and 2006.
He was Senate co-president pro tem in 2007 and 2008.
He left the Legislature at the end of 2008 because of term limits.
Morgan faces up to 10 years in prison.
Morgan is seeking probation and still claims he is innocent.
More than 400 Morgan supporters have written letters asking the judge for leniency.
Brinkley questioned the sincerity of the letter writers.
She told the judge that a personal friend connected to Oklahoma State University “told me she received the ‘form' letter to send in and that she really didn't know Mike Morgan, but others said he was a ‘good guy' so she sent the letter.”
Morgan “disputes that such a person exists and this statement is unfounded,” his attorneys wrote about her claim.