GOP Oklahoma House leader, wife accused of multiple felonies
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma County grand jury indicted a top Republican House leader on multiple felony counts, alleging he misused his power to change state law so his wife could become a tag agent.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, the second-highest ranking member in the House, was charged in the indictment on Friday with five felonies and three misdemeanors, The Oklahoman reported.
“He denies any wrongdoing,” his attorney, Mack Martin, told the newspaper.
His wife, Teresa O’Donnell, who was also indicted, faces three felonies and one misdemeanor. Court records don’t indicate the name of her attorney.
The most severe offense against the couple is conspiracy against the state, which has a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The Catoosa Republican introduced a bill in 2019 that allowed spouses of legislators to serve as tag agents. The Oklahoma Tax Commission appointed his wife to take over the Catoosa Tag Agency on Aug. 1, 2019, three months after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law.
Terry O’Donnell told The Oklahoman last year his wife had no intention of becoming a tag agent when he sponsored the bill. He said she sought the appointment after her mother died unexpectedly from pancreatic cancer.
Her mother, Georgia McAfee, had been in charge of the Catoosa Tag Agency for more than 40 years. Teresa O’Donnell had worked there for more than four years before her appointment.
Grand jurors alleged the two submitted a fraudulent application to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Commissioners were told she managed the daily operation of the office and supervised four clerks when she actually was only a part-time worker with no supervisory authority, grand jurors alleged.
Commissioners also were told they could check with her present supervisor about her job experience. At the time, McAfee was in hospice care, semi-conscious only from time to time and unable to answer any questions, according to the indictment.
In a statement Friday night, the legislator said “political operatives in Oklahoma City are using this to discredit our family’s character and destroy our reputation as a personal vendetta against me.”
“We will vigorously defend our integrity,” he said.