Oklahoma Tax Commissioners meet behind closed doors

Wednesday, August 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Members of the Oklahoma Tax Commission took no action Tuesday regarding the status of 186 workers in a division of the agency under scrutiny by the multicounty grand jury.

Grand jurors are investigating whether trucking company agents bribed employees in the Tax Commission's motor vehicle division, which handles truck tag licensing.

The panel has so far indicted seven people, including four who worked for the Tax Commission.

Tax commissioners did vote to begin steps to ban agent Jason Andrew Frias and former state employee Herbert Coles Jr. from registering trucks in Oklahoma again. Frias and Coles were among those indicted by the grand jury.

Tax Commission Chairman Thomas E. Kemp Jr. said officials are ``doing everything that we can'' to correct problems uncovered by the grand jury.

``We're attempting to ensure that things like this don't occur and to rectify the things that have occurred,'' Kemp said.

Grand jurors have alleged that agents hired by out-of-state trucking companies kept thousands of dollars of payments meant for the Tax Commission. The agents allegedly paid off OTC employees for their help in the scheme.

Kemp went to state Attorney General Drew Edmondson a year ago seeking help, he said.

Edmondson, who directs the multicounty grand jury's work, said more people could be indicted and the loss to the state from the fraud could be in the millions.

The commission's internal affairs director, Harold D. Neal, and Gary D. Wilson, human resources director, resigned on Monday.

Neal, 62 left immediately. Wilson, 58, asked that his retirement be effective Sept. 1. He said his health has deteriorated.