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Former Oklahoma state Sen. Mike Morgan was hired to stop harmful bills, landfill company owner testified

Former state Sen. Mike Morgan is accused of taking more than $400,000 in bribes from three companies, including Dilworth Development Inc., whose second owner testified Wednesday.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: February 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm •  Published: February 15, 2012

The owner of a landfill development company testified Wednesday that paying a state Senate leader to stop legislation harmful to the project was “the cost of doing business.”

“I didn't feel it was just right but we did it,” the prosecution witness told jurors at the political corruption trial for former Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, attorney Martin Stringer and lobbyist Andrew Skeith. “I wanted this project to go through.”

Richard Denton, of Blackwell, was the second owner of Dilworth Development Inc. to testify that Morgan, an attorney, was paid for his political influence and not for any legal services. The company was created to build a landfill on 160 acres in Kay County in northern Oklahoma.

The owner testified Stringer recommended hiring Morgan and Skeith. He said company owners first met Morgan and Skeith at Stringer's law offices in Oklahoma City on June 28, 2005. The company had hired Stringer in 2003.

Denton said the four owners were told Morgan already had stopped a bill that would have made their landfill project “dead in the water.” He said they were told the same thing could happen any time at the Legislature going forward. He said they were advised to hire Morgan so he could stop in the Senate any other bills that might kill the project. Their proposal had faced strong local opposition.

“Martin Stringer advised us we needed to have him on our team,” Denton testified.

He said they agreed to pay Morgan $50,000 a year.

“I think we took it as the cost of doing business,” he testified.

His wife, Edith Denton, testified Tuesday that Morgan was paid more than $141,000 over three years for his political influence.

“Martin Stringer, he said we needed him,” she said. “It was to watch our back.”

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