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Oklahoma House Speaker resigns post

Oklahoma City_The state House speaker resigned his post Monday after a series of embarrassing revelations, including not filing state personal income tax returns.

Republican Lance Cargill, at 36 the nation's youngest House speaker, told members of the House's GOP majority of his resignation by telephone during a conference call. He later issued a statement.

"For several weeks, our policies heading into the session have been buried in the newspapers, while personal stories have remained on the front pages," Cargill said. "I take full responsibility for that."

Cargill said he hoped that a new speaker could shift the focus back "to the future of this great state."

He quit the job one week before the Legislature is scheduled to convene on Feb. 4.

The speaker pro tem, Rep. Gus Blackwell, will act as speaker until a vote is held to select a new one, according to House rules. Republicans outnumber Democrats 57-44 in the House.

Cargill, serving his fourth two-year term in the House, was in his second year as speaker. He will stay on as a representative.

He was elected to the House's top job after a tumultuous term as Republican floor leader under former Speaker Todd Hiett in which Cargill resigned from that post midway through the 2006 legislative session.

Cargill has been under fire after a series of published reports over the past few months.

Reports this month said he submitted late property tax payments on his Harrah law office six years in a row and failed to file state personal income tax returns in 2005 and 2006. Cargill took responsibility for the tardiness and apologized.

But he came under harsh criticism from Democrats, and the revelations eroded support from members of his own Republican caucus. Many House Republicans said voters were furious about Cargill's lapses.

Questions have also been raised about fundraising activities in 2004 by a House GOP political action committee headed by Cargill. The Ethics Commission has opened an investigation into the matter.

Cargill said stepping down as speaker will permit him to better defend himself in the ethics probe.

"It is unfortunate that it had to come to this, but Speaker Cargill brought his troubles on himself," Republican Rep. Dave Dank said. "The people of Oklahoma have a right to expect exemplary conduct."

Added Dank: "He failed that basic test."

The House's Democratic leader, Rep. Danny Morgan of Prague, said Cargill had no choice but to resign.

"That's the speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The people of Oklahoma are looking at that position for leadership," Morgan said.

Tim Talley, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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