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Former deputy state health commissioner pleads guilty


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A former Oklahoma deputy health commissioner pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of conspiracy for his part in a scandal over public employees who drew salary, but did little or no work.

Brent Eugene VanMeter, 50, was sentenced by Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry Bass to a 10-year term, with eight years suspended, on each count.

The sentences will run concurrent with each other and with a two-year federal prison term he recently began serving. This means he should be out of prison in about two years.

VanMeter was named in two separate indictments in July 2001 for his part in approving false time sheets for two Health Department employees he supervised.

He was one of 14 former department employees indicted by a grand jury.

``Today's sentencing completes our Health Department investigation,'' Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. ``This was an investigation that saw 14 former employees indicted and exposed corruption at the department's highest levels. I am proud of our work.''

VanMeter's guilty plea Tuesday was to two felony charges of conspiring against the state.

He admitted in the first case that he signed another deputy commissioner's time sheets ``without verifying that he had worked during the time period.''

The other deputy commissioner, Roger Pirrong, was ill then and rarely at the office.

VanMeter admitted in the second case that he conspired to allow health worker Makala Bannister ``to be paid for full-time status when she was not working full time.'' Bannister actually was spending most of her time in classes then as a University of Oklahoma dental student.

VanMeter was given a two-year federal prison sentence last month for accepting bribes. Also last month, he completed a three-year term for seeking a bribe from a nursing home operator.
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