Sunday, June 15, 2008

State Auditor convicted of felony corruption.

[Oklahoma] State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan faces automatic suspension from office after a federal jury convicted him and his wife on three of eight felony corruption-related counts.

Jurors found that Jeff and
Lori McMahan illegally accepted excessive campaign money, jewelry and trips from southeastern Oklahoma businessman Steve Phipps. In return, the state auditor, with his wife's help, provided favors for Phipps' abstract companies, the jury determined.

After 13 hours of deliberations over two days, jurors found the couple guilty on a conspiracy count and two counts of violating the Travel Act to promote bribery. The Travel Act counts involve trips the McMahans took at
Phipps' expense in 2003 and 2004.

Jurors acquitted both on five mail fraud counts.

Prison sentences are likely. Federal sentencing guidelines treat public officials more harshly in corruption cases, which would portend a longer sentence for
Jeff McMahan than his wife.

Outside the courthouse, jury foreman
Michael Miracle said that after hearing nine days of testimony and arguments, he considered the state auditor "a small fish in a big pond with a lot of whales.”

"Granted, he's an elected official, and he should be held to a higher standard. But there's a lot of other people that were involved,” Miracle said. "I just don't think
Mr. McMahan was one of the ringleaders.”

An emotional verdict
Three jurors appeared to wipe tears as or after the sentences were read. As they filed out of the courtroom about 2:15 p.m., none looked at the McMahans.

Jeff McMahan, 48, seemed to choke up as the guilty verdict on the first count of conspiracy was read, then exhale as the judge announced "not guilty” to the first of the five mail fraud counts.

His wife, 43, sat clutching her husband's wrist but showed no emotion as the verdicts concerning her were read.

Jeff McMahan's attorney, Rand C. Eddy, said he was "extremely disappointed” by the verdicts. He said it's unclear whether his client will resign.

In a written statement Saturday,
Gov. Brad Henry called on Jeff McMahan to step down.

Auditor McMahan has had his day in court and a jury of his peers has spoken,” Henry said. "In light of the guilty verdict, I believe he should resign his office immediately so the state of Oklahoma can move forward under the leadership of a new state auditor and inspector. It is critical to restore public trust in that position.

"As governor, it will be my duty to appoint a successor. I will begin that process as quickly as possible.”

In a separate statement,
House Speaker Chris Benge said impeachment proceedings are likely if Jeff McMahan doesn't quit.

"We will now await
Mr. McMahan's decision on whether he will resign his position on his own or if the House will need to move forward with the impeachment process,” Benge said. "I certainly hope the House doesn't have to have an expensive and redundant impeachment proceeding, but we stand ready to do so if necessary.”

Lori McMahan's attorney, Kevin Krahl, said his next step is to "just go figure out the sentencing possibilities ... evaluate our options and go from there.”


Anonymous said...

Why didn't this guy resign when he was indicted?

I suppose this sort of power is very intoxicating.

Anonymous said...


You raise some good issues on the blog, but this is stretching it a bit eh? Guilt by association of trade? It seems as if you're implying that since one auditor was guilty of corruption then they're all corrupt - or at least the one's you disagree with. Come on, you're better than this. said...

This case from Oklahoma shows that the position of State Auditor is a rather powerful one. There are many opportunities to drift from public service.

In no way was I suggesting that Mr. Sonntag has been convicted of any crime.

And, before people ask, I am not aware of any connection between the former Athletic Director and the Oklahoma State Auditor.

Anonymous said...

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. At the very least, it can make it easier to screw things up and have no one question your ability.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like government offices can do just about anything they want and get away with it. Look at how child protection keeps letting our children die because they didn't do their job. Sounds like the Auditor falls under the same law.