- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A two-term Republican state senator being investigated for embezzlement at a nonprofit agency where he once worked has agreed to forfeit $81,000 in campaign funds to the state under a settlement announced Friday over allegations he improperly used them.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted unanimously to approve the agreement with state Sen. Rick Brinkley of Owasso.

Under the agreement, Brinkley agreed to forfeit the balance of his campaign account, about $81,000, to the state’s General Revenue Fund to settle allegations that he violated state ethics rules, which prohibit putting campaign funds toward personal use.

Brinkley’s campaign finance reports indicate he paid nearly $50,000 earlier this year to the Better Business Bureau in Tulsa, although the reason is unclear. Brinkley worked at the BBB for 15 years before he was fired in April and is accused in a lawsuit of embezzling more than $1.8 million from the nonprofit.

Brinkley’s attorney, Mack Martin, declined to comment on the agreement or the allegations against his client. Brinkley also has declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

Brinkley has not been charged, but is being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The lawsuit, filed by the BBB in June, alleges Brinkley set up fake corporate entities and used money from the nonprofit to “pay his mortgage, pool cleaner, personal credit card invoices, and to support a hidden gambling habit.” It also alleges that Brinkley took cash advances for business trips he never made and provided forged and falsified documents to the bureau’s board to hide his misappropriation of funds.

Lee Slater, the executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said the settlement agreement is one of the largest in state history.

“We looked at every expenditure his campaign made over the last three years,” Slater said.

According to the agreement, Brinkley must deliver a certified check to the Ethics Commission by the end of next week and close his campaign committee.

Brinkley submitted a letter of resignation to the Senate president pro tem last week, agreeing to step down from his Senate District 34 seat in north Tulsa County on Dec. 31. His resignation will leave about three years remaining on his four-year term.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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