Ex-cabinet secretary files $60M claim over bribery charge
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former member of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet has filed a claim for $60 million damages with the state attorney general’s office, alleging he was wrongly charged with bribery.
Former Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration David Ostrowe filed the tort claim Thursday. He alleges he was wrongly charged by a multi-county grand jury during the term of former state Attorney General Mike Hunter.
Hunter resigned in May, citing personal matters, and dropped the charges against Ostrowe, saying his office faced a potential conflict of interest because Stitt, who appointed Ostrowe, would appoint the new attorney general.
The charge alleged Ostrowe attempted to bribe two members of the three-person Oklahoma Tax Commission by threatening that state appropriations to the agency would be withheld if they did not waive interest and tax penalties levied against a company owned by former state Sen. Jason Smalley.
Ostrowe, a businessman who was appointed to the unpaid post in 2019 and resigned in September, denied wrongdoing and said in his claim that he has lost $60 million in business opportunities because of the charge.
A former spokesman for Hunter previously said Ostrowe’s case was referred to Hunter by state officials and undertaken the same as all cases taken before a grand jury.
Rachel Roberts, spokesperson for current Attorney General John O’Connor, said it is the attorney general’s job to investigate allegations of crimes.
“Concerns regarding Ostrowe’s conduct were referred to our office and investigated in accordance with our duties,” Roberts said in a statement. “We have nothing further to add at this time.”
Bob Nance, an attorney for Hunter deferred to the statement from O’Connor’s office and declined further comment.
The tort claim alleges Hunter sought to bolster a planned 2022 challenge to Stitt in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
“The former attorney general weaponized his office for personal gain and to protect corrupt state officials,” Ostrowe said in a statement.
Hunter never announced he was entering the race for governor, but filed paperwork for reelection as attorney general. He has since withdrawn as a candidate.
The attorney general’s office has 90 days to respond to the claim, which said Ostrowe will file a lawsuit if the claim is denied.