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Chelsea Church
Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy President Kyle Whitehead addresses a crowded room Wednesday, July 25, 2018, before the board convened its special meeting to consider Executive Director Chelsea Church's employment. (William W. Savage III)
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Chelsea Church has been terminated as executive director of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy, effective immediately.

The board went into executive session shortly after 2 p.m. to discuss whether to take employment action against Church, the non-appropriated agency’s executive director, who is under criminal investigation.

“As president of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy, I call this special meeting for our board to discuss the recent revelation of communication between director Church and the general counsel of the Department of Health in regards to director Church’s continued employment,” board president Kyle Whitehead said moments after convening the meeting.

The board features six members, all of whom were in attendance Wednesday. After more than 80 minutes in executive session, the board reconvened in open session and voted unanimously to terminate Church. They also voted unanimously to set an Aug. 8 meeting to discuss a potential interim director.

“No comment at this time,” Whitehead said after the meeting. “We will be issuing a press release (…) very soon.”

Attorney: Chelsea Church ‘will pursue all remedies’

Church’s employment became an issue following a bizarre and contentious series of events about the Oklahoma State Board of Health’s new medical marijuana rules.

The Board of Health passed rules July 10 that were drafted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health but made two controversial additions pushed by health care industry leaders: a prohibition of the sale of smokeable marijuana and a requirement that a pharmacist be present at all dispensaries.

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Negotiations about the pharmacist rule brought Church’s future with her agency into question after text messages surfaced that appear to show Church offering to hire OSDH general counsel Julie Ezell if she included the provision in her final draft of rules.

While Ezell did not include the provision, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into whether Church’s text messages — first reported on NonDoc — constitute the offer of a bribe.

The Oklahoman’s Nolan Clay reported earlier Wednesday that Church’s attorney said she “will pursue all remedies available to her” if her employment was terminated by the board.

Voters approved State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana with 57 percent support on June 26.

The Board of Pharmacy meeting Wednesday convened at 2 p.m., the same start time for the Oklahoma Legislature’s first meeting of its joint committee on medical marijuana.

Board issues press release Thursday

The Board of Pharmacy distributed the press release Whitehead mentioned Thursday morning. In the release (embedded below), he said the situation is “being taken seriously.”

“We are cooperating fully with the ongoing OSBI investigation,” Whitehead said. “Further, we will work with urgency to find an interim executive director, who will uphold our mission of protecting the health and wellbeing of Oklahomans

“The accusations involving Ms. Church are being taken seriously and because of the nature of the investigation, there will be no further comment regarding her status with the board.”

(Update: This story was updated to include the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy’s press release at 9:43 a.m., Thursday, July 26.)