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Former Oklahoma governor testifies for prosecution at political bribery trial

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a reform bill in 2010 after hearing rumors that a job was created for state senator.
by Nolan Clay Modified: October 23, 2013 at 10:07 pm •  Published: October 23, 2013

Former Gov. Brad Henry told jurors Wednesday that he vetoed a reform bill creating a new job at the medical examiner's office in part because of rumors a state senator was getting the position.

“When I vetoed the bill, clearly those rumors were in my mind and I was concerned,” Henry said.

Henry, a Democrat, was the seventh prosecution witness to testify at the political bribery trial for former state Rep. Randy Terrill.

Terrill, a Republican, is accused of offering then-Sen. Debbe Leftwich, a Democrat, an $80,000 a year job at the medical examiner's office to not run for re-election in 2010.

Prosecutors allege Terrill wanted to help his friend, state Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican, who was planning to run for her Senate seat.

Henry testified for 75 minutes, telling news reporters afterward it was hard to do because he considers both Terrill and Leftwich friends. He said he told the truth.

“The chips will fall where they may,” he told reporters.

Henry testified he vetoed the reform bill on June 6, 2010, even though he thought the legislation contained much-needed improvements to the medical examiner's office.

“It was a mess,” he said of the agency. “I didn't veto the bill lightly because we needed the reforms.”

He explained to jurors that he acted because the bill created the position of transition coordinator at the agency. “I thought it was totally unnecessary,” he said.

He called the $80,000 a year salary “a waste of money.”

He read to jurors his veto message. In it, he told legislators: “At a time when the state has been forced to cut many important programs and services, the creation of such a position cannot be justified or supported.”

The veto came after Henry became aware Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was investigating the creation of the position.

He also vetoed a bill that would have sent $90,000 to the medical examiner's office from a fund at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

Henry said he heard the rumors the position was going to Leftwich from two Democratic legislators on May 28, 2010, the last day of the legislative session. “The two legislators were upset about it,” he said.

He said he heard the rumors after Leftwich announced she would not seek re-election.

He said everyone was “abuzz” about her announcement.

Terrill's defense attorney, Chris Eulberg, asked whether the former governor considered Terrill to be an honest person.

“As far as I know,” Henry answered.

“I've never known him to do anything dishonest.”

Christian's testimony

Jurors also heard Wednesday from Christian, who testified Terrill in late May 2010 told him “to keep your mouth shut.”

Christian told jurors Terrill admonished him at the Capitol because he had talked at an end-of-the-session party about speculation Leftwich was going to work at the medical examiner's office. He told jurors he had been drinking at the party and said things he shouldn't have.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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