Former state health official goes on trial

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(Oklahoma City-AP) -- The federal bribery trial of former Deputy Health Commissioner Brent VanMeter is scheduled to begin today in Oklahoma City.

U-S District Judge Ralph Thompson is expected to rule soon on a defense request that the trial be moved.

VanMeter's attorney, Mack Martin, says his client can't receive a fair trial in Oklahoma City because of extensive pretrial publicity.

James Robert Smart, a nursing home operator from Wewoka, will be on trial along with VanMeter.

Authorities allege that VanMeter accepted a thousand-dollar bribe from Smart in return for backdating documents so Smart's nursing homes could receive additional federal funding.

The VanMeter case prompted a major shake-up at the health department, the firing of several so-called "ghost employees" and the indictment of a department employee on 33 felony counts of receiving money for work not performed.