Oklahoma State Rep. Terry O'Donnell Accused of Changing Law So Wife Could Become Tag Agent

Oklahoma State Representative Terry O'Donnell is accused of changing the state law so his wife, Teresa O'Donnell could become a tag agent, or an agent who provides services like motor vehicle registrations, renewals, among other things including providing notary services and issuing hunting and fishing licenses.

On January 6, 2022, Terry and Teresa O'Donnell did a "walk-through booking" at the Midwest City Jail, Midwest City Police Chief Sid Porter said. Porter said they were immediately released on bond, with Terry O'Donnell's being $23,000 and Teresa O'Donnell's was $16,000.

Terry O'Donnell, a Catoosa Republican, announced in a statement later Thursday that he will resign from his position as House speaker pro tempore on February 2 as he and his wife combat the charges against them.

"My wife and I are innocent, and we will fight back and vigorously defend our integrity," said O'Donnell in the statement. "I will not allow false narratives to be a distraction to the work of the state House."

An Oklahoma County grand jury indicted O'Donnell on five felony counts and three misdemeanors. His wife received three felonies and one misdemeanor. Conspiracy against the state is the couple's most serious felony charge, the maximum punishment being up to 10 years in prison, as well as a $25,000 fine.

In 2019, O'Donnell introduced a bill that removed a part of state law banning spouses of legislators to work as tag agents. Just three months after Governor Kevin Stitt signed the measure into law, the Oklahoma Tax Commissioner selected Teresa O'Donnell to head the Catoosa Tag Agency.

Terry O'Donnell, Teresa O'Donnell, Changing State Law
Terry O’Donnell, a Catoosa Republican, announced in a statement later Thursday that he will resign from his position as House speaker pro tempore on February 2 as he and his wife combat the charges against them. In this photo is the Oklahoma State Capitol building built in 1917. Getty Images

Terry O'Donnell and his wife are accused of submitting a fraudulent application to the tax commission, which appoints the state's more than 300 independent tag agents.

Terry O'Donnell told The Oklahoman in 2020 that his wife had no plans to become a tag agent when he wrote the bill. He said then that she sought the appointment after her mother, who was in charge of the Catoosa Tag Agency for more than 40 years, died unexpectedly of cancer.

Speaker of the House Charles McCall said in a statement O'Donnell's decision to resign his leadership post was "the right decision for the institution at this time."

An election to pick a new speaker pro tempore will be held after the House returns for the start of the legislative session on February 7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

terry teresa odonnell arrest oklahoma
In this January 6, 2022, booking photo provided by the Midwest City, Oklahoma, Jail is Oklahoma House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O'Donnell. O'Donnell and his wife Teresa face multiple felony counts connected to allegations Terry O'Donnell misused his power to change state law so that his wife could become a tag agent. O'Donnell says he plans to step down from his leadership position after his grand jury indictment. (Midwest City Jail via AP) Midwest City Jail/Associated Press