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Oklahoma governor’s cabinet secretary indicted on bribery

December 18, 2020 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of digital transformation and technology was charged Thursday with felony bribery for allegedly attempting to bribe members of the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

David Ostrowe, 52, was indicted by the state’s multicounty grand jury on one felony count of attempted bribery of an officer. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

Ostrowe is accused of threatening Commissioners Steve Burrage and Charlie Prater that state appropriations to the agency would be withheld if they did not waive interest and tax penalties levied against JCG Futures LLC, a company owned by former state Sen. Jason Smalley.

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“Commissioner Burrage stated that he believed the message from Ostrowe was a threat and that Ostrowe was trying to leverage legislative funding for the Tax Commission in order to obtain a favorable decision for JCG Futures LLC,” Tom Helm, an investigator for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an affidavit.

Ostrowe did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment, and court records don’t indicate if Ostrowe has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Ostrowe told The Oklahoman that he did not make any threats and that he routinely discusses tax-related issues with members of the commission.

“It’s a commonplace responsibility that I have,” he told the newspaper. “At no time did I do anything illegal, improper or immoral.”

A spokesman for Stitt, Charlie Hannema, said in a statement that the governor is aware of the allegations and is taking them seriously.

“We are still working to obtain more information regarding the details of the situation,” Hannema said. “The governor has faith in the fairness of Oklahoma’s justice system which includes the presumption of innocence.”

Ostrowe was the CEO of O&M Restaurant Group when Stitt appointed him to the cabinet post in January 2019 shortly after taking office.