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Third landfill company owner testifies former Oklahoma state Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan hired for political influence

Former Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan is accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from three companies who wanted his influence at the state Capitol. The trial resumes Tuesday in federal court in Oklahoma City.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: February 18, 2012
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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 testified.

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-living business. Morgan contends he was paid for legitimate legal services.

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