The third owner of a landfill development company testified Friday in a political corruption trial that a state senator was hired in 2005 for his influence over legislation.
Jolene Ford, of Newkirk, testified the company's main attorney, Martin Stringer, advised the four owners in June 2005 to hire Mike Morgan and lobbyist Andrew Skeith.
Morgan, a Democrat, was then the leader of the state Senate. Ford testified Morgan was hired “to watch” for any other bill that could derail the company's plans to build a landfill in northern Oklahoma.
The jury in the federal trial in Oklahoma City heard similar testimony earlier in the week from two other owners of Dilworth Development Co. Inc. The company president, Richard Denton, and wife Edith Denton testified they were told Morgan already had stopped a bill that would have killed the project.
Ford said the owners met Morgan at Stringer's law firm in Oklahoma City on June 28, 2005. She took notes of the meeting.
“He sat quietly,” she
She said she mailed him checks for almost three years, starting in September 2005 and ending in May 2008 when Morgan's last legislative session was wrapping up. He billed the company $4,166.66 a month.
Prosecutors did not call the fourth owner, Gaylord Ford, who is married to Jolene Ford. He told FBI agents in November 2008 that the company hired Morgan because Morgan is a lawyer.
The company finally got a permit last year but has not started construction on the landfill at the proposed site in Kay County.
Morgan is accused of taking $141,666 in bribes from Dilworth Development Co., $250,000 in bribes from a power plant company and $12,000 in bribes from an Edmond assisted-
Morgan, 57, of Stillwater, Stringer, 71, of Oklahoma City, and Skeith, 53, of Edmond, were indicted in March. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Morgan was Senate president pro tem or co-president pro tem from March 2005 until November 2008, according to the indictment.
Jurors also heard Friday from an attorney who worked for Stringer on the landfill project. The attorney, Derek Hardberger, recalled Stringer was the one who invited Morgan to meet with the landfill development company owners on June 28, 2005.
Hardberger said he understood Morgan was there as an elected official to discuss the landfill issues. He also said Stringer and another partner in the firm instructed him to keep Morgan advised of what was going on with the landfill project.
When questioned by defense attorneys, though, Hardberger acknowledged Morgan was present for a discussion with the owners in Kay County in the fall of 2005 about whether to file a lawsuit against county commissioners.
Defense attorneys said Hardberger told FBI agents and a federal grand jury that the discussion with the owners was that Morgan was going to file the lawsuit.
“I don't recall at this point who was to file it,” Hardberger testified.
The Dilworth Development owners faced strong opposition locally to their plans. Hardberger recalled being threatened as he left a county commission meeting in June 2005. He said someone walked up behind him and said, “I'm going to get you, you blankety-
He said he considered getting a permit to carry a concealed gun.
“It was unnerving, yeah,” the attorney said.
Dilworth Development did sue Kay County commissioners — in November 2005. Morgan was not one of the attorneys who filed the case.
The trial is expected to last two to three more weeks. Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.