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Man accuses opponent of unfair advantage

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- The way Jay Stephens sees it, his opponent in the Muskogee mayor's race is using his political clout to gain an unfair advantage.

Stephens filed a complaint Monday with the Muskogee County Sheriff's Office against Hershel McBride, who spent 14 years on the City Council before relinquishing his seat to run for mayor.

The complaint involves a commercial that began airing this past weekend on a local cable TV station. Stephens says McBride used city employees and equipment to film the ad.

McBride, 62, and Stephens, 38, are in a May 9 runoff.

McBride said he may have made a mistake by asking a police officer to drive a car in the commercial, but it wasn't intentional.

The 30-second commercial shows McBride in the City Council chambers, sitting in the mayor's seat along with three council members. It also shows a city police officer in a squad car driving by the city water department, and a fire truck being pulled out of the city fire station.

Stephens said the city employees gave written statements that they had the approval of their supervisors to participate in the commercial. He said that constitutes embezzlement and false accounts by officers. Because McBride asked the city workers to participate, Stephens accuses him of aiding and abetting in the commitment of embezzlement and false accounts by officers.

"Because he's been in office so long, he thinks he's entitled to do this, but he's wrong," Stephens said.

McBride said the council members in the commercial support him, that they are unpaid and that city hall is a public place. Therefore, there was no misuse of city property, he said.

McBride said he asked the fire chief to pull a new truck out of the garage for the commercial because he helped acquire it by supporting a capital improvements project.

"I didn't actively involve an employee; the fire chief did. I have a right as a citizen to take pictures of city equipment," McBride said.
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