Ousted Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman accused of campaign violations – Oklahoman.com

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is seeking tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of the state from an ousted Oklahoma County district judge.
Kendra Coleman, 45, of Oklahoma City, was removed from office last year on misconduct grounds.
On Wednesday, the Ethics Commission accused her in a civil case of multiple campaign finance violations dating to 2017.
Coleman was elected in 2018 in her first bid for office. She accepted prohibited donations, made unlawful expenditures, failed to keep required records and filed late and inaccurate reports, the Ethics Commission alleged.
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Most of the accusations center around what the Ethics Commission described as a “troubling relationship” with her attorney, Joe White.
The Oklahoma City attorney represented her campaign after the Ethics Commission opened a formal investigation on Sept. 13, 2019. The Ethics Commission alleged his legal services count as prohibited corporate contributions since she never reported paying the law firm for the help.
She also never reported paying for a March 1, 2018, fundraiser and the Nov. 8, 2018, watch party at White’s law firm. The Ethics Commission alleged those events also count as impermissible contributions.
The Ethics Commission also questioned whether White could represent Coleman in the civil case since he will be a witness at trial.
Coleman could not be reached for comment. White called the Ethics Commission despicable.
“Every person in America is entitled to a lawyer to defend their interests, especially when the government is seeking to punish that person,” White said Thursday.
“This remains true even when the person may not be able to afford an attorney. Here, the Ethics Commission is attempting to deny Kendra Coleman the counsel of her choice by trying to manufacture a conflict of interest.”
He called the attempt wrong and a violation of her constitutional rights. 
“It is despicable behavior by the Ethics Commission, and our society should not tolerate such behavior.”
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Coleman reported raising $29,020 in cash from donors to her 2018 campaign. The Ethics Commission alleged she misspent more than $10,000 of the funds, including for spa services and makeup.
The Ethics Commission asked that she be ordered to pay civil penalties to the state’s General Revenue Fund, plus up to three times the value of “all unlawful contributions … and expenditures.”
The oversight body also wants to be reimbursed for its legal expenses and the cost of its investigation.
The civil case was filed in Oklahoma County District Court. Representing the Ethics Commission is Drew Edmondson, a former attorney general.
Coleman was removed from office by the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary on Sept. 18, 2020.
In a 6-3 decision, the special court found she committed oppression in office, violated the Code of Judicial Conduct multiple times and violated ethics reporting rules involving her campaign.
Five of the six judges who found misconduct agreed she should be removed.
The special court did not disqualify her from holding judicial office in the future. In October, she kicked off efforts to be elected judge again in 2022.
White also represented Coleman before the Court on the Judiciary and in criminal cases involving tax returns.
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He told the Court on the Judiciary last year that Coleman got makeup for a photo for a campaign brochure and went to the salon the same day as her election watch party.
Coleman in February was sentenced to probation for failing to file her 2017 state tax return on time.
She entered a so-called Alford plea to the misdemeanor charge rather than a guilty plea. Under an Alford plea, a defendant accepts a sentence for a crime without admitting to it. She specifically noted in the paperwork that she maintains her innocence.
She filed her 2017 state tax return in September 2019, one day after The Oklahoman reported it was overdue.
“I’m a regular person with regular issues the same as everyone else in the world,” she told The Oklahoman about her financial difficulties. “It’s life. These things happen.”
Coleman reached an agreement last year with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to pay $17,616 in installments on her overdue taxes, interests and other fees. The debt involved her 2011, 2012, 2017 and 2018 taxes.
She also has been behind on her federal taxes. Last year, she owed the IRS more than $100,000 in federal taxes, penalties and interest, according to evidence presented to the Court on the Judiciary.


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