Oklahoma Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, who is leaving state government after 14 years, is buying the law office of an attorney who is returning to the state Capitol after being gone 25 years.
Coffee, one of Gov. Mary Fallin’s top advisers who announced last month he is leaving the Cabinet post after serving there two years, said Monday he is acquiring the Oklahoma City law office of Lee Slater.
Slater is selling the law office he established in 1988 after leaving as secretary of the state Election Board. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission hired Slater on Friday to serve as its executive director.
Coffee, an attorney who served 12 years in the state Senate and couldn’t seek re-election in 2010 because of legislative term limits, is leaving the secretary of state’s post Jan. 31.
He was the first Republican leader of the Senate, serving as president pro tem of the Senate during his last two years in the upper chamber and two years as Senate co-leader before that.
Politics, law meet
Slater is to start his new duties Feb. 1 on a part-time basis to give him time to close down his law practice. He is to be working full time by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Coffee, appointed secretary of state in January 2011, said he will continue Slater’s legal specialty of campaign finance and lobbyist regulations but will expand his practice to take up other cases.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to continue the efforts begun by Lee,” Coffee said. “He has become the expert in matters involving the intersection of politics and law.”
Coffee will call his practice Glenn Coffee and Associates and also will set up a consulting firm, The Coffee Group.
He said he will continue to serve as general counsel for TVC Marketing Associates Inc., a family business he helped start more than 20 years ago.
Coffee said he will continue to be an outside consultant for the state on water issues.
He has been involved in talks aimed at resolving a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations to stop Oklahoma’s plans to draw water from Sardis Lake in Pushmataha County and deliver it to Oklahoma City.
Slater was a newspaper reporter when he was named in 1971 to serve as secretary of the state Senate, which includes the post of overseeing the state’s elections as secretary of the Oklahoma Election Board.
Since leaving state government, Slater also has been hired to do legal work the past 20 years for the Senate.
Slater said Coffee is “a unique and perfect fit” to take over his practice and the needs of his clients.
“A law practice is more than a service business; it is a fragile relationship of trust between a lawyer and his client not easily established and easily besmirched if it is not well tended,” he said. “In accepting this state position, I have been concerned about the organizations and individuals who have relied on me the past 25 years. … I am so pleased that he is available.”
Coffee, of Oklahoma City, was elected to the Senate in 1998 and was the first Republican to lead the Senate when the GOP gained control of the chamber for the first time after the 2008 elections.
After his term expired in November 2010, he served as co-chairman of Fallin’s transition team.
Fallin, elected governor in November 2010, named Coffee secretary of state in January 2011, shortly before she took office.
During his tenure as state Election Board secretary, Slater launched a comprehensive program that led to mandatory training for 15,000 election officials, including county and precinct officials and voter registrars. He was instrumental in the 1974 rewriting of all Oklahoma’s election laws for the first time in state history, and he developed voter information programs.