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Sears' links to lobbyist daughter questioned by Terrill, others

CapitolBeatOK.com
State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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OKLAHOMA CITY – During an interview with State Rep. Randy
Terrill this past weekend, the Moore Republican aired some enlightening inside
tidbits about things he has seen and heard while serving as a legislator.

It seems that Terrill is tired of the double standard taking
place within his Republican caucus, with leadership publicly reprimanding
Terrill and fellow outspoken conservative Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) on
the House floor, while allowing everything from drinking on the House floor to
having sex in legislative offices to go largely unpunished.

During his interview with Red Dirt Report, Terrill discussed how State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville,
may have allegedly become entangled in a conflict of interest issue while serving as the
chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget committee.

And the alleged conflict concerns family.

“Rep. Sears has a blood relative, a daughter named Hollye
Hunt, not the actress, who is the chief lobbyist for Higher Education,” Terrill
said. “Higher Ed, of course, is a an entity we appropriated more than a billion
dollars to. How convenient.”

Terrill said the Oklahoma Constitution prevents legislators
from having direct or indirect interest in a contract with the state. That
includes relations including blood relatives or those related through marriage.

Regarding Sears, Terrill said what he is allegedly involved
with is “a violation of ethics rules.”

Terrill said he addressed his concerns with Speaker Kris
Steele this past December. However, Terrill said Steele appeared to dismiss
these concerns and Sears was allowed to remain as chairman.

“He turns a blind eye to it,” Terrill said.

Red Dirt Report
contacted Steele’s office on Monday and his spokesperson, Lisa Liebl, responded
this way in an e-mail: “The decision to appoint Rep. Sears as chair of the Appropriations
and Budget Committee was fully evaluated. Rep. Sears’ daughter’s employment at
a state entity does not present a conflict of interest. Rep. Sears is an
extremely ethical and valued member of the House of Representatives.”

And inside sources tell Red
Dirt Report
that at the Monday Republican caucus meeting that Sears brought
up this very issue and said he was being unfairly attacked and was doing
nothing wrong.

Attempts to get comments from both Rep. Sears and Hollye
Hunt on Monday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Terrill notes that he has learned that Rep. Sears
is sharing a home with his lobbyist daughter down in Cleveland County while the
legislature is in session. A question raised by Terrill is whether Sears is
receiving something of value – food, rent, shelter – from his lobbyist daughter.

“I think it’s a very relevant fact,” Terrill said of the
living arrangement.

Also, sources tell Red
Dirt Report
that in the time Sears has been serving as chairman for
A&B, his daughter has received a 33 percent raise – now totaling approximately $120,000
a year, although it is unclear why she received this raise.

“That’s quite a pay raise,” Terrill said. “Did she take on
any additional responsibilities? What did she do for that pay raise?”

Red Dirt Report
was unable to contact Glen D. Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents
for Higher Education, for comment by Monday evening.

Again, Hollye Hunt did not respond to our request for a
comment.

Terrill, meanwhile, still wants some pressing questions answered by Sears.

“Are you reimbursing your daughter while you live there
during session?” Terrill asked.

And even if it is not a conflict of interest, Terrill says
the whole arrangement looks bad.

Terrill also notes that even if Sears were to step down from
his chairmanship he could still be found having committed an ethics violation.

Terrill points to Article 5 section 23 of the Oklahoma
Constitution and notes how it prohibits legislators from having a direct or
indirect interest in state contracts.

“The Capitol is replete with indirect conflicts,” he said.

And yet the media and others, he says, are “squeamish” about
pointing these things out, even when they are terribly obvious.

Terrill says he is not the only legislator looking askance
at this alleged issue of conflict of interest. Others are starting to ask
questions and are hoping the House leadership will clarify their position on
these matters.

Copyright 2011 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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