Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 2, 2010

OSBI to investigate Stillwater campaign finances

Payne County district attorney requests investigation after NewsPress looks into campaign financing

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will examine campaign finances of Stillwater City Council candidates, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Payne County District Attorney Rob Hudson said this morning he asked the Stillwater Police Department to investigate campaign finances. However, the department requested state investigators conduct the probe, citing a possible conflict of interest.

“(SPD Chief Norman McNickle) believed that to avoid any appearance of bias on their part, since it potentially involves their bosses, (so he) has asked the OSBI to conduct investigations,” Hudson said.

Hudson said Friday he was considering looking into campaign finances after the Stillwater NewsPress examined candidate campaign finance reports, and asked the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and Hudson’s office about corporate donations.

The district attorney’s office is not an investigatory agency, Hudson said.

“There has been an allegation of this type, and it has been referred to OSBI to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest on our part. They are investigating it,” Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said Tuesday.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said Tuesday morning the OSBI had been contacted, but had not yet opened an investigation.

“It depends when we can sit down with the district attorney and get information about what he wants us to do. It may take a week,” Brown said.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes has said corporatoins cannot donate to campaigns but can independently buy ads to endorse candidates, as long as the candidate is not involved.

An initial campaign finance report filed by Dennis Gronquist’s campaign manager Dr. Sidney Williams listed more than $1,500 of in-kind advertising donations made by Williams’ corporations, the Williams Clinic of Stillwater, Inc. and Market Supply Co.

Gronquist’s campaign amended the report Friday striking those expenditures and listing only individual donors to his campaign. Gronquist has said he was unaware Williams had made any corporate expenditures for advertising endorsing him. But Hughes told the NewsPress any in-kind donation purchased by a campaign manager would be inextricably linked to the campaign itself. Williams also bought, through his corporation, ads for candidate Gary Stanton. The photo for the Stanton ad was taken in WIlliams' office.

Hudson said this is the first time his office has ever asked for an investigation into campaign finances. The Ethics Commission handles most investigations.

The commission’s scope includes state and county campaigns, but not municipal candidates. Those fall under the jurisdiction of the district attorney’s office.

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