Judge says AG doesn't have to represent VanMeter in civil lawsuit

Friday, June 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson does not have to represent a former Health Department official who faces a
civil lawsuit brought by a nursing home operator, an Oklahoma County judge ruled Friday.

District Judge Noma Gurich ruled that Edmondson's office faces a conflict of interest and therefore could not represent former
Deputy Health Commissioner Brent VanMeter, said Gerald Adams, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

VanMeter is being sued by Floyd Propps, an Oklahoma City attorney who has served as receiver and temporary manager of nursing homes.

Propps alleges that VanMeter forced a bank to remove him as receiver of the Choctaw Living Center, which had been operated by a friend of VanMeter's.

Edmondson has said he believes VanMeter acted outside the scope of his authority involving Propps' removal.

The AG's office normally defends state employees who are sued as the result of actions arising out of their official duties. But the attorney general can refuse to represent a state employee if he believes the employee deliberately engaged in illegal acts.

Propps' civil lawsuit was filed March 10, 1998.

VanMeter was fired May 4, two days after being arrested on a federal bribery allegation. He is accused in a federal indictment of taking a $1,000 bribe from nursing home owner James Smart, who also has been indicted.

Adams said the judge also ordered that a hearing be held by Aug. 22 on a request by VanMeter's attorney that the state pay for
VanMeter's representation.

"It is our contention, of course, that Mr. VanMeter should not receive representation at state expense," Adams said.