Local & Regional

State of Oklahoma-File photo

The top lawyer at the Oklahoma State Department of Health who recently resigned now faces criminal charges after authorities said she sent threats to herself and then lied about it to investigators.

The agency's former general counsel, 37-year-old Julia Ezell of Edmond, was charged Tuesday in Oklahoma County with two felonies and one misdemeanor. An agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation wrote in an affidavit that Ezell sent threatening messages to her own official government email and then reported that to authorities.

Oklahoma’s Promise is one of six state "free college" programs that saw stronger support during the Great Recession.

A report from progressive think tank The Century Foundation found its funding went up 46 percent during the downturn, second only to Mississippi’s program. Foundation senior fellow Jen Mishory said lawmakers took measures to preserve Oklahoma’s Promise after struggling to meet its obligations in 2006.

Tulsa Public Schools and Hunger Free Oklahoma are trying out a program to help needy families get money for food.

Through the SNAP In Schools program, Hunger Free Oklahoma is teaching employees at nine schools already in contact with families where the kids receive free or reduced-price lunch to identify the ones not signed up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

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The top lawyer at the Oklahoma State Department of Health has quit her job, days after the agency's board ignored her advice on rules for medical marijuana. This apparently took place after she emailed herself a threat. She faces a felony complaint.

Health department officials confirmed Tuesday that Julie Ezell resigned as general counsel on Friday, effective immediately. The agency declined additional comment.

In a brief email to the agency's interim commissioner, Ezell wrote: "I am so sorry." 

Unhappy at TPS

Jul 17, 2018
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Tulsa Public Schools' planning documents show that the district has trouble teaching students and retaining teachers partly because of staff members' belief in a lack of support from administration and policy.

The documents obtained by the Tulsa World are presentations district administrators gave to principals and senior staff last month as part of the planning process for the next school year. The documents' information was compiled from University of Oklahoma-Tulsa surveys of district staff at school sites and internal district data.

Snakes Can Be Hard to Spot in Green Country

Jul 17, 2018
Wikimedia

It is that time of year when more snakes are spotted in Green Country. Most are harmless--- but some are not. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s Micha Holmes says to keep snakes away; clear away brush and rock piles.

He says in this part of Oklahoma, Copperheads, Rattlers and Water Moccasins are the most common, venomous, snakes. 

Holmes doubts there are more snakes. He believes people are just getting outside more and seeing more snakes. 

In the local news:

  • Reaction to the Trump/Putin meeting.
  • A look at the new OK-Pop design.
  • The AG will review the Health Department's medical marijuana rules.

Two Shot in South Tulsa

Jul 17, 2018
Tulsa Police

Police don’t know who did the shooting and witnesses are not giving up names. Two people were shot last night at the Prescott Woods Apartments near 61st and South Peoria.

Tulsa Police released the following statement about the shootings:

Peteruetz-Wikipedia

 

A municipal official in central Oklahoma is exploring ways to limit single-use plastic bags, similar to proposals in other parts of the U.S., to combat a leading source of litter and pollution.

Norman Councilwoman Breea Clark says she realized the need to act after touring the materials recycling facility where all the city's recyclable items collected from curbside bins are sorted. Clark says the plastic film gets caught in the machines and workers have to untangle or cut the plastic loose, slowing the sorting process.

Trip Advisor

 

A district attorney for a county near Tulsa has been cracking down on the old crime of not returning rental DVDs by offering a payment plan to avoid filing charges.

Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard's office is sending letters to several hundred residents with overdue DVD rentals. The letters spell out fines and fees that start at $200.

The letters are part of a diversion program that allows Ballard's office to recoup funds for businesses while avoiding filing charges. Super Video in Claremore is the only vendor being represented by the program.

BETHANY, Okla. (AP) — Police in suburban Oklahoma City say a 15-year-old boy has been fatally shot and that a 16-year-old has been arrested for manslaughter in his death.

The shooting occurred at about 7:39 p.m. Sunday at a residence in Bethany, located along Oklahoma City's western boundary. Officers who were called to the scene found the 15-year-old victim and the alleged assailant in the residence. Neither boy has been identified.

KGOU

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A new survey shows the chief executives of Oklahoma's public colleges are paid below the national average.

The Oklahoman reports the survey from The Chronicle of Higher Education found that heads of public colleges in the U.S. were paid an average of about $560,000 last year.

Former University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who retired June 30 , received total compensation of $437,992. Boren's successor, OU President Jim Gallogly, is paid $500,000.

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CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) — A district attorney for a county near Tulsa has been cracking down on the old crime of not returning rental DVDs by offering a payment plan to avoid filing charges.

Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard's office is sending letters to several hundred residents with overdue DVD rentals. The letters spell out fines and fees that start at $200.

Laurie Avocado

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's attorney general says he's assigning a team of lawyers to advise him on matters surrounding the Board of Health's decision to insert last-minute restrictions on the state's new medical marijuana industry.

Attorney General Mike Hunter announced his intentions in a letter sent Monday to the Oklahoma Department of Health's Interim Commissioner Tom Bates.

"Grit and glitz" is the concept behind the newly unveiled design of the long-awaited Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture.

"The 'grit' is the concrete and steel that speaks to the work ethic and drive of our citizens. The 'glitz' is the illuminated metal panels that speak to the bright lights and wonder associated with the substantial contributions of Oklahoma’s creatives and their impact on popular culture," said architect Chris Lilly.

NPR

 

State estimates show that testing more than 7,000 unsubmitted rape kits in Oklahoma could cost more than $9 million.

The Oklahoman reports the estimates were provided in a report by a statewide task force examining the issue. The actual cost could be different because officials haven't formally decided how to test the kits or how many to test, and the task force recommends some kits not be tested.

Muddy Paws

Almost three-dozen Oklahoma inmates graduate tonight in Tulsa. The inmates have been taught the art of pet grooming through the Department of Correction’s 'Muddy Paws' program.

The DOC’s Matt Elliott says the  graduates are from the Turley Correctional Facility’s half-way house.  The program gives the soon-to-be-released inmates an employable skill for when they are freed.

The graduation will be held at the Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa. 

In the local news:

  • Efforts are underway to revitalize Tulsa's economic development effort.
  • More meetings this week on the Lee School name change.
  • Oklahoma Teachers Learning Through Summer 'Jobs'

KWGS File photo

Oklahoma U.S. Senator James Lankford is not done with efforts to safeguard elections across the country.

Lankford appeared recently before the Senate Rules Committee to stump for his Secure Elections Act. He said he and co-sponsor Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, have met with state and federal elections officials to bolster the legislation.

Wikipedia

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has expanded a summer externship program for teachers.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said four times as many teachers are participating in the program’s second year, learning hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering and math through temporary gigs with Oklahoma companies.

"But it’s also a paid opportunity. We see that our teachers are clamoring for professional development, training, support, resources. So, this helps in multiple areas," Hofmeister said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

After its hiatus ended earlier this year, the City of Tulsa Economic Development Commission has big plans.

By law, the commission oversees 38.5 percent of hotel and motel tax revenue. Commission Chairman Elliot Nelson said 34 percent passes straight through to the convention and visitors bureau, which said it needs more funding.

KWGS News

This week, Tulsans get their chance to tell the city how it’s going.

The Gallup-Tulsa CitiVoice Index is a survey of 50 indicators of overall city vitality. Check your mailbox — the survey is being mailed to 22,500 households in all parts of town.

"Today, with cellular phones not really matching up in terms of area code and that sort of thing, we want to be sure that we're getting Tulsa residents," said City of Tulsa Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation James Wagner.

Wagner said this isn’t your usual municipal government poll.

Oklahoma Watch

 

Two-term Democratic state Rep. Claudia Griffith, a candidate for a seat in the Oklahoma Senate, has died.

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall's office said in a statement that Griffith died on Saturday. Democratic Party officials say Griffith died after suffering an apparent heart attack. She was 67.

File Photo- US Armys Corps of Engineers

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to increase safety patrols on Oklahoma lakes following a string of recreational drownings.

Corps spokesman Matthew Nolen says officials plan to encourage the use of life jackets following the drowning deaths of 11 people in Oklahoma lakes since May.

Nolen says most drowning victims are not swimmers and fall into the water unexpectedly from a boat or dock. Officials say consistent life jacket use could reduce drownings by 90 percent.

KWGS News Photo

With all the talk about downtown Tulsa parking right now, another change could be coming.

The Downtown Coordinating Council is one group proposing a parking ticket forgiveness program for specific circumstances.

"I would really like to see the city adopt a ticket forgiveness program for anybody who leaves their car overnight who decided to take an Uber home so they didn’t drunk drive," said DCC member Elliot Nelson.

Laurie Avocado

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Civil lawsuits have been filed in two Oklahoma counties accusing state health officials of improperly imposing strict rules on the state's recently approved medical marijuana industry.

Separate lawsuits were filed Friday in Cleveland and Oklahoma counties over the policies that were adopted this week by the State Board of Health and then quickly approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

Now’s your chance to dive with one of the most dangerous species of shark in the world.

The Oklahoma Aquarium is offering an all-expenses-paid trip for one lucky, certified scuba diver to don a 45-pound chain mail suit and jump into the bull shark tank right here in Jenks.

"We have the only collection in the U.S., and we have the largest collection in the world. We have 10 on exhibit and seven in back of house, and we collect our own sharks," said aquarium CEO Kenny Alexopoulos.

Pot advocates celebrated the culmination of a yearslong effort to ease restrictions on the use of cannabis last month when nearly 60 percent of Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana.

Oklahoma's proponents had even included a two-month deadline for the implementation in their measure so as to avoid the years of delays they had seen elsewhere.

File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved Oklahoma's Medicaid program for a first-in-the-nation drug pricing experiment that supporters say could save taxpayer dollars and provide patients with the most effective medications for their ailments.

Under the "value-based purchasing" program approved in late June, the state and a pharmaceutical company would agree to a set payment if its medication works as advertised, but only a fraction of that if the drug is not as effective as promised.

On the heels of Gov. Mary Fallin signing controversial emergency rules for medical marijuana, Oklahoma's top state lawmakers say they will assemble a bipartisan working group to review them.

The working group will involve the governor's office, medical marijuana industry representatives, State Health Department officials, healthcare providers and others.

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