Former Lawmaker Hit With Ethics Action

Thursday, June 28th 2007, 3:59 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former state Rep. Mike Mass, who has pleaded guilty to a federal charge in a public corruption case, was reprimanded by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Thursday for failing to disclose income when he was a state lawmaker.

The public reprimand was announced by commission chairman James Loy after a closed-door meeting of commission members.

During the years 2004, 2005 and 2006, Mass filed financial disclosure statements which failed to report substantial income, the Ethics Commission said in a statement.

``The three counts show a deliberate intent to hide income, which the law requires to be disclosed,'' Loy said.

Income amounts listed as not reported included at least $42,000 in 2003, a minimum of $49,500 in 2004 and $46,790.27 in 2006, when Mass left office after serving the maximum 12 years under the state's term-limit law.

The figures were obtained by subpoenaing bank records of Mass accounts.

Mass pleaded guilty in Muskogee last April to a federal felony charge as part of a plea agreement linked to a fraudulent scheme to distribute state money to private businesses.

The ex-lawmaker listed his address in Higgins, but he does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment on the ethics panel's action.

Under disclosure rules, public officials are required to report sources of income in excess of $5,000.

The reprimand said a public official failing to disclose income ``precludes a determination whether that public official has conflicts of interest when handling the public business. It also engenders distrust, which has the effect of undermining confidence in government.''

Mass is the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Federal prosecutors allege he took part in a conspiracy that led to money being funneled to the business enterprises of Steve Phipps, longtime business partner of former state Sen. Gene Stipe.

The charge against Mass asserts that mail fraud was committed in a scheme to deprive Oklahoma citizens of ``the right to honest services.''

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Phipps pleaded guilty to a similar charge on Wednesday and also is cooperating with federal authorities.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling has said Mass is believed to have received $250,000 in kickbacks. Two other ex-lawmakers have been cited in court documents as receiving kickbacks, but have not been charged.

Mass is accused of conspiring with two other legislators to steer funds appropriated by the Legislature to the Rural Development Foundation, which then distributed the money to National Pet Products and Indian Nations Entertainment Corporation.