Does Senator Coffee’s Loan Comply with State Ethics Rules and Laws?
Saying full disclosure is needed to restore public trust in the State Senate, Democratic Caucus Chairman Kenneth Corn today pressed again his request for Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee (R-Oklahoma City) to release all pertinent documents related to his tax troubles and the loan he secured to pay his tax debts. The Poteau Democrat noted several papers across the state over the weekend, including the second largest newspaper in Oklahoma, the Tulsa World, have echoed his request.
“The concerns cited by these newspapers underscore this request isn’t about partisanship; it is a legitimate and necessary effort to clear the air and give the people of Oklahoma the facts they deserve and demand,” Corn said. “Until Oklahomans hear the whole story and see the proof that only official documents can provide, a cloud of controversy and doubt will hang over not only Senator Coffee, but the entire State Senate. We respect Senator Coffee and we want to believe his story, but until specific documentation of his state and federal tax standings and his loan are made public, troubling questions will remain. This is bad for Senator Coffee, the Senate and the people of Oklahoma who entrusted us to be their voice in the state senate.”
Last week the media discovered the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien against Senator Coffee because he failed to pay federal taxes. Under questioning from reporters, the Senate leader confirmed the story and said he took out a loan to pay his tax debts. However, despite requests from the Democratic Caucus and the media, Senator Coffee has refused to identify the specific source of the loan or provide other details and documentation to answer the questions that remain unanswered.
“I respectfully but strongly disagree with Sen. Coffee’s opinion that his tax records and loan documents are not relevant to this issue. When a public official, especially one of the most powerful leaders in the state whom has a large role in writing the state budget, acknowledges he did not pay his taxes and had to take out a loan to pay them off, the very least he can do is provide supporting documents showing he is in good standing on all taxes and that is loan is appropriate and in full compliance with state ethics rules and laws. That is just common sense,” Corn said. “Refusing to provide these basic documents or even identify the source of the loan or collateral involved just raises more questions for which Oklahomans deserve answers. For his own sake, I thought Senator Coffee would release that information immediately, and not doing begs the question that the Tulsa World opined over the weekend: What is Senator Coffee hiding?”
Senator Corn noted the Senate leader has seemed evasive as reporters pursued additional details of the story. In published reports last week, Sen. Coffee left himself some wiggle room when asked if he had other delinquent taxes in the past saying, “My taxes are all paid as far as I know. I am not going to tell you that I may or may not have been late, but there has never been a lien filed on any of these taxes.”
Coffee offered a similar response when asked about outstanding traffic tickets, but had to change his story when reporters pointed out he actually had two unpaid tickets.
“Every time Senator Coffee responds to questions from the news media, he raises new questions. That is why it is so important for him to release the proper documents to clear the air," Corn said. "It’s in his best interest and the best interest of the people of this great state who deserve nothing more than full disclosure on this matter so that it doesn’t continue being a distraction during this important legislative session.”
Articles referenced in release:
Tulsa World - More Coffee?: Senate leader needs to clear the air
Muskogee Phoenix - Weak Coffee leaves bad taste
Ada Evening News - Sen. Coffee should resign his position