Sheriff Stanley Glanz once owned stock in a biotech company that makes a cleaning product the Tulsa Jail used to combat staph infections and he repeatedly touted the product in press releases while the stock price increased, an investigation by The Frontier has found.
The product, Staph Attack, was far more expensive than other alternatives the jail could have used and a spokesman for Glanz said the jail eventually stopped using it.
When asked by The Frontier about his investment, Glanz said: “I lost my ass.” He declined an interview request and refused to answer additional questions sent to his office.
However records show Glanz may have reaped a healthy profit, depending on when he bought and sold the stock in Pure Bioscience, the California-based company that created Staph Attack.
The company’s SEC reports indicate the stock went from below $2 per share the year Glanz owned it to a high of more than $8 per share before he reported divesting his stock in 2008.
The Pure Bioscience stock increase may have been aided by numerous enthusiastic news articles and press releases quoting Glanz about the product. The releases and news stories did not disclose Glanz’s investment in the company.
It is unclear how much Pure Bioscience stock Glanz owned, exactly when he bought and sold it or how much the county spent buying Staph Attack. It is also unknown whether the sheriff sought competitive bids for the cleaning spray, which used a largely unproven active ingredient, silver dyhydrogen citrate.
Though the jail used Staph Attack for years, the Sheriff’s Office could produce only one 2008 purchase order, showing the county bought 72 bottles, paying $9.95 for each 32-ounce bottle.
Former employees of the Sheriff’s Office said they were frequently told to spray Staph Attack on mattresses, the booking area, countertops, bathrooms and other surfaces throughout the jail. Deputies were also told to keep a bottle in their patrol cars and spray the seats at the end of each shift.
William Adams, who retired as a deputy in 2012, said when he worked at the jail, employees were pushed “to use this product all the time, and to use as much if not more than was required.”
A bottle of Staph Attack was recently spotted in a bathroom at the Faulkner Building, which houses offices for Glanz and his top officials.
Glanz disclosed his investment in Pure Bioscience stock on his 2006 financial disclosure form filed with the state Ethics Commission. Officials are required to disclose ownership each year of their sources of income, including stock and investments worth at least $1,000.
At the time Glanz disclosed the investment, state ethics laws prohibited county officials from receiving personal benefit from purchases made as part of their official duties.
Currently, any possible conflicts of interest involving purchases by county officials would be up to the district attorney to prosecute, according to Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office.
Two months after Glanz took control of the jail from a private operator in June 2005, the jail began using Staph Attack.
In a press release on the PR Newswire dated Jan. 19, 2006, Glanz announced the jail had “completely eliminated” staph infections in the five months he had operated the jail.
“We have been using Staph Attack for five months and have eliminated the reoccurrence of Staph infections in the facility. We are pleased to have created a healthier environment and at the same time save money,” the press release quotes Glanz as saying.
The release states: “As part of its regular cleaning and maintenance program, the jail now uses Staph Attack to disinfect booking areas, bathrooms, countertops, cells and mattresses.”
It also claims the product offers “24 hour residual protection” and a low level of toxicity, meaning “less frequent applications and no need for protective wear such as gloves and masks.”
The release stated that before using the product, the jail reported an average 12 cases of staph infection among inmates each month.
The release seemed written more for potential investors than the general public.
“As a platform technology, SDC is distinguished from competitors in the marketplace because of its superior efficacy, reduced toxicity and the inability of bacteria to form a resistance to it. … PURE Bioscience (PURE) develops and markets technology-based bioscience products that provide solutions to numerous global health challenges,” it states.
On Dec. 14, 2006, Glanz signed the annual financial disclosure form listing at least $1,000 worth of stock in Pure Bioscience he purchased that year. At the time, the company’s stock was considered a “penny stock” or over the counter stock, not listed on a major stock exchange.
The Sheriff’s investment came at an opportune time, as concern about MRSA was sweeping the country.
Adams said the Sheriff’s Office was concerned about deputies and the public being exposed to possibly infected inmates transported in patrol cars or to the courthouse.
“This product was highly touted by the TCSO staff as the panacea for the MRSA outbreak,” he said. “We were instructed to ‘liberally’ use the product to eliminate the spread of MRSA.”
Adams said when he left the jail and was assigned to patrol, “we had to have a minimum of a full bottle in your patrol car all the time.”
“At the yearly inspection, if you did not have a full bottle, after the browbeating for not having a bottle, you were provided one, and again advised to liberally use it.”
Glanz and his top officials also talked up the benefits of Staph Attack at conferences and in trade magazines.
In February 2006, then-Undersheriff Brian Edwards touted the benefits of Staph Attack at a jail administrators convention in Colorado: “Brian Edwards, Tulsa County, noted that his jurisdiction has found an effective way to prevent MRSA. Their approach, which has been successful, involves a regular protocol of spraying with Staph Attack, a product of Enviroguard Technologies of Tulsa,” according to a document listing highlights of the convention.
Enviroguard Technologies was the Tulsa-based distributing company for Staph Attack. Records show it was formed in late 2005 by attorney Jeffrey Levinson.
Glanz’s longtime friend, Robert Bates, would later list Levinson’s brother, Lee, also an attorney, as a reference when Bates applied to become a volunteer reserve deputy at the Sheriff’s Office in 2008.
On Oct. 18, 2007, Pure Bioscience issued a second press release on the PR Newswire praising the benefits of Staph Attack. Like the first release, it prompted media coverage from a variety of outlets.
The news release headline states: “Update: Staph (MRSA) infection eradicated for 14 months with use of Pure Bioscience’s SDC disinfectant by Tulsa County Jail. Tulsa County Jail Representative and Pure Bioscience CEO available for comment.”
The release offered to set up interviews with “jail representatives” about the effectiveness of Staph Attack.
One day later, Pure Bioscience sold 1.6 million in unregistered securities as part of a private offering to investors at $5.03 per share, reaping more than $8 million, SEC records show.
Glanz was quoted in at least one media report that month, printed in a Spokane, Wash. newspaper. The story in the Oct. 30, 2007, Spokesman Review said Glanz had been using the product at the Tulsa Jail to combat staph infections.
“I had 12 cases a month when we started. We haven’t had any problems since we started using the product,” he told the newspaper.
The following day, Oct. 31, 2007, Pure Bioscience stock peaked at a high of $8.59 per share on the over the counter market, records show.
While Glanz and other employees were publicly proclaiming the benefits of Staph Attack, medical literature about its active ingredient did not entirely support their claims.
MRSA guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 state that medical literature on infection control “barely mention the antimicrobial activity of heavy metals” such as silver.
However, the CDC noted that “the anti-infective activity of some heavy metals has been known since antiquity .. and the use of heavy metals as antiseptics or disinfectants is again being explored.”
When asked recently whether the active ingredient in Staph Attack was effective in controlling staph infections, a CDC spokeswoman told The Frontier in an email: “We don’t have any information about silver dyhydrogen citrate.”
A headline on a story posted on corrections.com called MRSA the “super-scary superbug” of 2007.
“Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) replaced SARS and the avian flu as the headline-grabbing superbug,” states the story, accompanied by a photo of a menacing bacterium with neon green spikes.
The story called Tulsa’s experience using Staph Attack “the feel good MRSA story of 2007.”
Pure Bioscience CEO Michael Krall also claimed in the story that Staph Attack could be used to extinguish fires and was non-toxic, making it safe for inmates who tried to drink it. (The product’s active ingredient had also been used to purify water.)
According to the story, Krall laughed and said: “They’ll only get healthy drinking our product.”
Pure Bioscience officials did not respond to a request for an interview about the product.
‘Not the best option’
By the time Glanz filed his 2008 financial disclosure form in July 2008, he stated he had “divested all stock.” While it isn’t clear how much Glanz made or lost on his investment, Pure Bioscience’s stock went from a low of $1.26 per share in July 2006 to a high of $5.52 in July 2008, with a high point of more than $8 in 2007.
It’s not clear when the Sheriff’s Office stopped using Staph Attack in the jail.
Deputy Justin Green, a spokesman for the office, said: “TCSO does not use Staff Attack. We did try it several years ago and decided that it was not the best option for us at the time.”
County officials seemed unaware Glanz owned stock in the company that sold Staph Attack to the jail, including Meredith Baker, general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office.
“I was unaware of the Sheriff’s personal ownership interests in this company until very recently but please find attached the sole purchase order that our accounting staff was able to retrieve from county records. … Also, Sheriff Glanz respectfully declines your request for an interview.”
The county is also less eager to discuss how many staph infections have been reported among inmates. The jail reported an “outbreak” of staph infections in 2013.
When asked by The Frontier for monthly statistics for the past several years, Green said in an email last week: “As far as the number of MSRA cases I have yet to be able to attain that information. I spoke again with the medical staff at DLM and was informed that they had some computer issues and are currently unable to access those records but assure me that once they are back online they will let me know. Once I have the information I will provide it to you.”
Asked on Wednesday about records of staph infections in the jail, Baker said she would try to find the information.
As of Friday, Baker had not supplied the records.