Okie truck tag scandal prompts division changes

| 8/22/2002

Oklahoma Tax Commission officials have approved reorganizing the troubled motor vehicle division resulting from a bribery scandal. The overhaul includes replacing the longtime director and deputy director of the 186-employee division.

A multi-county grand jury is investigating corruption in the handling of fees paid by out-of-state truckers for tags and cab cards. As of mid August, seven people have been indicted on felony charges or conspiring to defraud the state.

Four worked for the Tax Commission in the motor vehicle division. The other three were agents hired by truckers to get tags and cab cards.

The grand jury alleges the agents pocketed thousands of dollars in trucker fees intended for the state. The grand jurors allege the agents bribed agency employees to help in the schemes.

Under the Tax Commission reforms, another division director will succeed Curt Byers, director of the motor vehicle division, and David Freno, deputy director, also will replaced. Byers and Freno are planning to retire.

Paula Ross, a spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said the retirements have been planned, but the announcement does coincide with the agency's new direction.

In other changes, Ross says eight to 10 additional employees from the agency 's audit division will be assigned temporarily to process truckers' applications for tags and cab cards. A Tax Commission attorney will be assigned to review truckers' applications.

An auditor will be borrowed from State Auditor and Inspector Clifton Scott to monitor the work on truckers' applications. "We realize there were some areas that had problems but we don't think it's the whole area," Ross said. "The auditor will be added to give the trucking industry and the public more confidence everything is run above board."
--Keith Goble, staff writer