Oklahoma State Senators stopped short when they should have gone all the way.

Oklahoma State Senators stopped short when they should have gone all the way.

The Senate voted unanimously to take away Sen. Ralph Shortey’s laptop and parking spot. They even kicked him out of his office and stripped him of committee positions.

They could have expelled him if two-thirds of the Senate had approved but they stopped short. Somehow, the good senator from Dist. 44 in south Oklahoma City wasn’t immediately arrested despite being found in a hotel room with marijuana in a hotel room with a 17-year-old male. Police even had incriminating texts between the two including Shortey allegedly offering the teen money for “sexual stuff” along with several other lurid messages.

It took almost a week for the Moore police to recommend charges against Shortey and Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn wasn’t in a big hurry to file charges either. Finally, Thursday morning, a week after the senator’s encounter, Mashburn charged Shortey with engaging in child prostitution, engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church and transporting a minor for prostitution.

Would anyone else suspected of engaging an underage male in prostitution and plying them with illicit drugs have been allowed to return home? I would imagine most suspects would have been in cuffs in the back of a squad car and jailed until they could make bail. Being a pawn of the oil industry and supporting bills on behalf of your local DA to overturn a vote of the people apparently has its perks.

Since the other Senators decided not to expel him, Shortey can still vote and collect his paycheck. I’m sure many in the Senate were loath to expel him before charges were filed and guilt ascertained. I’m also sure that several good old boys were pretty quick to get on the phone and “recommend” that Sen. Shortey do the right thing for the legislative body and resign.

In fact, Governor Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Senate Leader Mike Schulz and the Oklahoma Republican and Democratic Parties have all called for Shortey’s resignation Thursday after he turned himself in. Shortey’s resignation has officially become the first non-partisan issue at the State Capitol in years.

But Shortey has proven that doing the right thing isn’t exactly his top priority.

Shortey has made sure many of his activities have brought him in contact with boys. From a position in his church’s youth department, to committees at his local YMCA and even working with Boys State put him in contact with what people now recognize are potential victims of his twisted sexual preferences.

The most awkward moment of peak hypocrisy came when only hours after being caught red-handed in his home away from home, Sen. Shortey attended an event with Donald Trump Jr. and posed for photos with his crime-stained paws all over the President’s son. I hope he at least wiped his suit with one of those pine tree air fresheners before he attended the private event and talked to everyone about his family values and anti-drug stance.

Shortey continues to have the right to vote and draw a paycheck. The State Superintendent is facing charges of electoral violations and is still carrying out all duties of her office. A representative had sexual harassments claims clandestinely paid off by the state before he was forced to resign, unresign, and re-resign earlier this year. In what you can only assume was a coincidence, Sen. Shortey was an advisor to Dan Kirby as he was deciding whether or not to resign from office.

Shortey will also continue to draw his state pension even if he is convicted and jailed for three felony counts.

The legislature has to act now to save the dignity of their office. The incidence of embarrassing criminal activity is far too high considering there are just over 150 elected officials at the State Capitol. There needs to be a tough new law that allows the legislature to suspend elected officials without pay and privilege if they are charged with crimes. It could stop short of expulsion until the case makes its way through the justice system, but it would avoid the embarrassing fact that we are still paying these people and giving them the right to vote on important state issues while facing felony charges.

It is bad enough to enact policies like tax cuts for the wealthiest in the state while cutting public education and threatening to close state parks. Those are just bad policy driven by partisan pandering.

Rewarding lawmakers who have been charged with crimes is turning our state’s legislature into a punchline.

Lawmakers can change that if they want to.