Two years ago, Damian Laber joined the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa as a professor and chief of hematology, and he was tasked with building programs at its cancer center (see this). But his stint is ending prematurely. Last week, the university reprimanded Laber for receiving more than 200 times the annual $100 limit from a company registered as a lobbying principal with the state.
Which company? Laber was accused of accepting $27,800 from Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, according to an Ethics Commission report (here it is). At least some of the money was for speaking fees during the fourth quarter of 2010; he joined the university in August 2010. And so, his employment contract is not being renewed. "His employment at the university will end no later than June 30," an OU spokeswoman tells the Associated Press. "The University of Oklahoma takes ethics guidelines very seriously, and it is the policy of the university to abide by all of those guidelines."
In his defense, Laber maintained he was unaware of the $100 annual limit that a state employee can receive from lobbyist principals, or companies that hire lobbyists and provide money to buy things of value to influence state employees and legislators, according to the discipline report released by the state Ethics Commission, the AP writes. He also insisted he was unaware of state ethics rules, and arrived from a state without similar restrictions. As a result, he merely continued his speaking obligations, which he added, began before moving to Oklahoma.
The Ethics Commission report notes that his conduct was not intentional and that Laber stopped making promotional speeches after he was told of the ethics issue. But as we know, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. We have contacted the state Ethics Commission for a copy of the report and will provide a link as soon as we are able.