Wes Lane, president of Salt and Light Training Inc. and former Oklahoma County district attorney, once stole from a restaurant owner for whom he worked as a bartender his senior year at the University of Oklahoma.
He confessed his crime to some 400 guests of the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium luncheon Wednesday at the Petroleum Club.
“He (the former boss) chewed me out for something I didn't do, and I was mad and wanted to get even,” said Lane, who spoke about overcoming contention and divisiveness.
“I started pocketing cash for a few months, left and went to law school,” he said, drawing guffaws from the crowd with the mention of law school.
Ten years later, after Lane said his world view changed, he sought out his former boss, owned up to his wrongdoing and presented him with some two-and-a-half times the few hundred he stole. “It was so freeing, like I was a balloon filled with helium,” he said.
Fittingly, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who defeated Lane in a hostile campaign in 2006, introduced Lane. The pair worked together in the DA's office before Lane fired Prater for what Lane later learned were unfounded reasons.
“The acrimonious tone of the campaign was my fault,” Prater said. “I felt wronged, and I wanted to do anything I could do to not only get elected, but also take him down, and hurt the man who hurt me.”
But Prater, four years ago, said he realized he'd forgiven his friend when he learned through the Oklahoma City Police Department that a newly released prisoner made death threats on them and the late DA Bob Macy.
“No one had yet alerted Wes to the threats and I realized how angry I was — not at Wes, but at the man out of prison,” Prater said.
He called Lane and it led to a full reconciliation, he said. “That day, love overcame hate,” he said.
Lane, who last week officially asked Prater to forgive him though they'd both already forgiven each other, said the weeks following his defeat for re-election were one of the greatest times in his and his wife's life.
“I didn't expect to lose, was hurting, embarrassed and wanted to evaporate, but we realized we'd structured our life around God, something that couldn't be destroyed or taken away,” he said.
Lane talked about the rock of small kindnesses, telling of a time he attended the funeral of a judge and Prater tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to come over and sit with the DA's office.
He also said that meekness gets a bad rap as “sissy,” when it's really “self-restraint rooted in the recognition that it's not all about you.”
Lane closed with a call to area businesspeople to astonish the nation like they did following the bombing of the Murrah building.
“For one, we need to empty out the needs of our foster care system,” said Lane, chairman of the Department of Human Services Commission.