Lobbyist for Oklahoma's county commissioners says Mike Morgan was behind effort to get landfill legislation passed

Former Oklahoma Senate leader Mike Morgan is on trial in federal court in Oklahoma City. He is accused of accepting bribes from three companies to influence legislation concerning landfills.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: February 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm •  Published: February 21, 2012

A well-known lobbyist testified in a political corruption trial Tuesday that a Senate leader was behind a failed effort to change state law in 2007 to help “friends” with a landfill project.

Dave Herbert, a former state senator, said he agreed to help Mike Morgan, then Senate president pro tem, by looking the other way when the proposal was slipped into a bill around the end of the 2007 legislative session.

“He was asking me to go against the people who were paying me,” said Herbert, then a lobbyist for the state's county commissioners. “It put me in a pretty tight spot.”

The testimony came on the sixth day of the federal trial in Oklahoma City for Morgan, longtime lobbyist Andy Skeith and prominent attorney Martin Stringer.

Morgan, a Democrat, is accused of taking $141,666 in bribes from a landfill development company, Dilworth Development Co. Inc., for his influence at the Capitol.

The jury last week heard testimony that the company's owners hired Morgan in 2005 for his political influence after they were told he already had stopped a bill that would have derailed their landfill development. “It was to watch our back,” one owner testified.

Morgan tried to get law changed, lobbyist says

The jury heard testimony Tuesday that Morgan also was behind a failed legislative effort in 2007 to help the company by taking the state's county commissioners out of the business of regulating landfills.

At the time, Dilworth Development's owners were facing strong local opposition to their plans to build a landfill in Kay County, particularly from Kay County commissioners.

Herbert told jurors he was called to a meeting with Morgan and Skeith at the Senate president pro tem's office at the Capitol in 2006. Herbert testified Morgan wanted his help to see if Kay County commissioners would back off. Herbert then was a lobbyist for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma.

“He said he had some friends who really wanted to see the landfill in Kay County go in,” Herbert testified.

Herbert testified he checked and reported back to Morgan that Kay County commissioners were staunch in their opposition. He said he then agreed to check with his association about changing the law on the regulation of landfills.

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