Local Official Admits Taking Gifts, Cash from Contractors; Claims He Lacked Authority to Help Them

Native Times: “‘Yes, I accepted the gifts, but they didn’t influence my decision-making process,” Jason Merida said. ‘I didn’t have the authority to make decisions on which vendors we would use, so they couldn’t.'”

“Among the gifts Merida testified to receiving Wednesday were $20,000 in cash, more than $40,000 in Kohler home fixtures, three all expenses paid hunting trips to Missouri and New Mexico, multiple firearms, a weekend golf trip to Pebble Beach, Calif., two freezers, architectural consultations on a home he and his wife planned to build, two Kawasaki Mule All Terrain Vehicles, a 2009 Cadillac Escalade, tickets to a 2010 Dallas Cowboys playoff game and two trips to Dallas via private plane.

“The former executive and his wife also accepted a birthday trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that he described as within the parameters of their personal relationship with Lauri and Brent Parsons, the owners of Builders Steel. The Parsons were among six individuals who pleaded guilty last year in connection with the case and both testified that they counted the trip as part of the cost of doing business with the Choctaw Nation.

“Choctaw Nation law does not prohibit employees from accepting gifts from vendors while in their official capacity as long as those gifts do not impact how they make decisions on the job.”

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