Outgoing Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Friday afternoon dismissed attempted bribery charges against David Ostrowe, Oklahoma’s secretary of digital transformation.

A multicounty grand jury charged Ostrowe in December with two counts of attempted bribery over an alleged scheme to lower tax penalties for a company at the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Hunter dismissed the indictments “without prejudice,” which means they could be refiled at a later date. Hunter announced his resignation on Wednesday after allegations of an affair with an attorney working at another state agency. Hunter’s resignation is effective on Tuesday. Gov. Kevin Stitt will pick his replacement. 

In the dismissal documents, Hunter said the original case was submitted to the attorney general’s office after a complaint from the then-chairman of the Tax Commission.  

“As a result of the pending gubernatorial appointment of the Oklahoma Attorney General, the office of the Oklahoma attorney general thereby has been presented with a conflict in the existing case because said defendant is the secretary of digital transformation, a gubernatorial cabinet secretary,” the dismissal said.

Ostrowe, who denied the allegations, has remained in Stitt’s cabinet but been on leave since the charges were filed in December. After several delays, Ostrowe’s next court appearance was scheduled for July 16. 

“I spoke to the governor this afternoon,” Ostrowe said Friday. “This just goes to show that I have been innocent all along, and I will be seeking justice for what was improperly brought against me by Mike Hunter.” 

According to an affidavit filed in the case, the tax commissioners said Ostrowe approached them separately about lowering penalties and interest against the delinquent taxes of an event venue owned by former Sen. Jason Smalley. 

Former commissioner Steve Burrage said Ostrowe brought up the name of the budget chairman in the Senate and said he could cut funding to the agency if the matter wasn’t resolved, according to the affidavit. State Sen. Roger Thompson denied making any threats and said he was only helping Smalley navigate the process at the Tax Commission. 

Burrage, whose six-year term was ending, has since been replaced by Shelly Paulk, who previously worked in state finance at the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. 

On Friday, Stitt said he was glad to see the charges dismissed. 

“I am relieved to hear that the charges have been dropped against David Ostrowe and look forward to seeing the name and reputation of a good man and loyal public servant restored,” Stitt said in a statement. “From the beginning, I have maintained my faith in the fairness of Oklahoma’s justice system and its presumption of innocence, and I am thankful the truth has been revealed.” 

Separately, Hunter’s opponent in the 2018 GOP primary and runoff for attorney general announced his intention on Friday to seek the office in 2022. 

Gentner Drummond said Hunter’s resignation gives voters another chance to decide who they want as their elected attorney general. Drummond, 57, is a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who has law, banking and ranching businesses in Tulsa and Hominy. 

Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or pmonies@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies. 

Support our publication

Every day we strive to produce journalism that matters — stories that strengthen accountability and transparency, provide value and resonate with readers like you.

This work is essential to a better-informed community and a healthy democracy. But it isn’t possible without your support.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.