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Businessman seeking legislative help says Mike Morgan asked for $1,000 a month, telling him, “This is the way it works.”

Former Senate president pro tem Mike Morgan is on trial in federal court in Oklahoma City. Morgan, a Democrat, is accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from three companies.
BY NOLAN CLAY Published: February 24, 2012

The owner of an assisted-living company told jurors Thursday at a bribery trial that Mike Morgan wanted $1,000 a month when he asked the then-Senate leader in 2006 for help with regulators.

“This is the way it works: You pay me a $1,000-a-month retainer,” the witness, Sam Crosby, recalled Morgan saying.

“I looked at him a little bit and said, ‘Is that legal?'” Crosby, 70, testified.

He said Morgan, an attorney, replied, “Yeah, that's legal.”

“It didn't sound right to me,” Crosby told jurors at the federal trial in Oklahoma City.

The testimony came on the eighth day of the trial for Morgan, longtime lobbyist Andy Skeith and prominent attorney Martin Stringer.

Morgan is accused of accepting $12,000 in bribes from Crosby's assisted-living company for influence at the Capitol. Morgan in 2007 introduced a Senate bill that became law and cleared up a “gray area” in the regulation of assisted-living centers, according to testimony.

Morgan, a Democrat, also is accused of accepting $141,666 in bribes from a landfill development company and $250,000 in bribes from an energy company for political influence. Skeith and Stringer are accused of conspiring with him on behalf of those two companies. Morgan contends he was paid for legitimate legal services.

Crosby owns Silver Oak Senior Living, which operates assisted-living centers in Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska. Its main office is in Edmond. Crosby lives in Carney.

Crosby told jurors he hired a lobbyist in 2006 after the state Health Department kept “dinging” his company with fines.

He testified the lobbyist, Benny Vanatta, set up a meeting in May 2006 with Morgan at the Capitol. He said at the meeting Vanatta told him to “just spill out” what his troubles were with the Health Department.

Crosby testified he told Morgan he needed help such as phone calls, legislation or meetings “to get them off my back.”

Crosby testified at that point Vanatta stood up, said he was going to get some coffee and left the room. Crosby recalled that was when Morgan brought up the $1,000 monthly payments.

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