Governor Frank Keating owes an apology to Senator Penny Williams and the family of the late Cheryl Selman, the longtime legislative liaison of the Tulsa Public Schools who died Tuesday morning of heart failure.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor said remarks made by the Governor during an interview on KRMG radio in Tulsa Wednesday morning were "cruel and heartless."
In that Wednesday interview, Governor Keating implied that Senator Williams purposely skipped a procedural vote on right to work, even though the reason for her absence was announced shortly after the vote was taken Tuesday and was subsequently reported by the media.
Senator Williams was at the bedside of Cheryl Selman, a longtime friend who was like a sister to the Tulsa legislator, when she died in an Oklahoma City hospital Tuesday morning. Williams was then driven to the State Capitol by Selman's mother, but missed the procedural vote by a few
"Have you no shame, Governor Keating? Is nothing sacred in your world of partisan attack politics?" asked Senator Taylor, who called on the Governor to apologize and retract his statements immediately.
"I don't think an apology will repair the damage he's done, but it is the very least that he can offer to Penny Williams and the Selman family," added Taylor.
In an apparent effort to bolster his story that Senator Williams missed the vote on purpose, Governor Keating also told the KRMG audience that the Tulsa legislator managed to make the rest of the votes held in the Senate Tuesday. In fact, the Tulsa legislator was only on the Senate floor for a brief time Tuesday morning and then left for Woodward to help the Selman family make funeral arrangements.
"The Governor did his best to insinuate that Sen. Williams was ducking a vote when in fact she was at the bedside of a dying friend, supporting her mother. I know Governor Keating has a reputation for taking every opportunity to disparage people with whom he disagrees, but this is really beyond the bounds of human decency," said Senator Taylor.
Governor Keating was joined in his attack by the chairman of the State Republican Party who asserted inaccurately that Senator Williams answered the opening roll call for Senate action Tuesday, but skipped the right to work vote. That is not true, according to the Senate leader, who noted that the Senate Journal roll call simply reflects whether a legislator is present anytime during the daily session, not the exact time he or she arrives. Williams did not arrive until after the right to work procedural vote.
"At some point, the lies and deceit should stop. Instead of thinking ahead to the next election, the Governor should have the decency to be respectful of family and friends who are grieving for Cheryl. At some point, he has to stop acting like a partisan politician and behave like a human being instead."
Cheryl Selman was a former Tulsa school teacher who began representing the Tulsa Public Schools at the State Capitol in the mid-80's. Selman, who suffered from kidney disease in recent months, died of heart failure Tuesday at the age of 54. Funeral services will be held in Woodward on Saturday.