Speaker Steele names investigatory committee’s members

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report  
Published 15-Feb-2011

House Speaker Kris Steele on Monday (February 14) announced the eight members of the special bipartisan committee that will investigate the allegations that led to state Rep. Randy Terrill being charged with felony bribery.

“The lawmakers who have agreed to serve on the committee are well-respected members of this body with the ability to undertake a task of this significance,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican. “I am confident they will conduct a thorough review that complies with the rule of law, respects the rights of the accused, and fulfills our duty to the public, and then reach an appropriate conclusion based only on the facts of the case.”
The committee’s makeup is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
State Rep. Fred Jordan, a Jenks Republican, will chair the committee. Jordan is a former Marine Corps Judge Advocate and attorney who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
State Rep. Ben Sherrer, a Pryor Democrat and an attorney, will serve as vice-chair.
The other six members of the committee are:
•                State Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City
•                State Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove
•                State Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs
•                State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa
•                State Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford
•                State Rep. Purcy Walker, D-Elk City
The committee met briefly yesterday morning to adopt the rules that will govern the investigatory process. The group is charged with gathering evidence and ultimately making a recommendation to the full House if the Committee finds sufficient evidence exists that the legislator in question “has engaged in conduct which impairs the ability of the member to perform the duties of his or her office, or substantially impairs public confidence in the Legislature.”
Under the rules adopted, the committee members cannot discuss the investigation while it is ongoing to protect the member under investigation and all witnesses, as well as to protect the integrity of the process.
However, all the group’s findings and recommendation will be released to the public.
The rules adopted call for a multi-part process.
In the first phase, the committee or its counsel will conduct an investigation and gather evidence. Upon completion of the gathering process, all information will be provided to members of the committee.
At that point, committee members will determine if the evidence is sufficient to warrant additional proceedings. If so, a written report outlining the evidence will then be provided to the member under investigation, who will then have 14 days to respond in writing and to request an opportunity to present additional evidence.
At the conclusion of that process, the committee will vote on whether or not to recommend disciplinary action to the full body of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Throughout the process, the committee will have subpoena power to compel witness testimony and production of documentary evidence.
“The committee process has been designed to maintain decorum and gather information in a forthright and orderly fashion,” Jordan said. “While this committee is not conducting a criminal investigation, the decisions reached could still have lifelong implications for one of our colleagues, and this task will be treated with the seriousness a decision of that magnitude deserves.”
Upon completion of its work, the committee will submit a report of its findings to the House, which will be filed in the chief clerk’s office. The report will be made available to the public.
“The public has a right to know how a decision was reached and why, and the report will provide those answers at the appropriate time,” Jordan said.
The final decision would then be left up to the full membership of the Oklahoma House of Representatives during a floor session.
Terrill was charged with bribery last year for engineering a plan to reward a Democrat for leaving office in return for a job at the state Medical Examiner’s office.
Democrats in the House, including Mike Brown and Scott Inman had pressed for members to conduct their own investigation of Terrill’s use or misuse of power.
For several weeks, Speaker Steele had indicated formation of such a panel was possible.  While not unprecedented, Monday’s appointment of an even number of members from each major political party was unusual.
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.