BY DAVID PERRYMAN
In my family, holiday traditions have always been as much about food as they are about the gathering of extended family. Some of my best memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year are the smells and tastes of foods that are often reserved for special occasions.
With absolute predictability, we not only knew what each aunt would be bringing, we also knew what bowl or dish it would arrive in. Many of the dishes containing the food had been in our family for decades, if not generations, and were as much of our family tradition as what they contained.
Sometimes, an elderly aunt would “pass the baton” by presenting a recipe and the bowl that it was served in to a younger family member.
While there might be upwards of eight to 12 “cooks in the kitchen” making final preparations for a specific holiday meal, each knew the boundaries of their bailiwick and never crossed the line in such a manner as would spoil someone else’s culinary offering.
Perhaps state legislators and other partisan politicians in Oklahoma government would best serve their state by tending to their own “bailiwick.” In a classic case of “too many cooks spoiling the broth,” a Republican-led committee that claims to be “investigatory” has joined a Republican-led audit and a Republican-led grand jury in trampling around a state agency that has been intentionally underfunded and set up to fail.
This new committee is reminiscent of the Republican-led “secret” investigatory committee that was formed in January 2017 to investigate sexual harassment claims against a Republican legislator. There is little reason to believe anything will be “discovered” if it would serve the party best for it to “not be discovered.”
It came as no surprise that the sexual harassment investigation did not “discover” that the $28,414.20 in state funds paid to the person who claimed that she was harassed or the $16,085.80 in state funds paid to her attorneys was paid by House leadership in violation of 58 O.S. Section 158(A). Instead, the legislator was allowed to set his own resignation date and the committee rode into the sunset.
Now another politically motivated Republican-led “investigatory committee” is trampling the evidence while a Republican state auditor who has allegedly been aware of the facts for months rushed in the past several days to start an “audit” only to announce a day or two later that he personally shouldn’t be involved but that people who work for him would be. Not to be outdone, the Republican attorney general who was appointed by the governor just a few months ago has initiated a grand jury to “investigate” those involved, including a number of other Fallin appointees.
In a breath of fresh air, the United States Department of Justice and the FBI announced they will investigate. In light of that announcement, Oklahoma would best be served if the partisans and those who might have a motive to prevent an embarrassment to a specific political party would “get out of the kitchen” and not spoil evidence.
Most observers agree that there are no missing funds and instead believe that the agency likely used federal funds to pay for state or non-eligible expenses with the intention to have other funds available to use for eligible expenses. Such a method of money management is not foreign to the state Legislature which has made a practice of sweeping revolving funds from state agencies to plug budget gaps for the past seven or eight years.
Likewise, the director of State Finance used the same money management method last year when he failed to follow the Oklahoma Constitution and swept millions from the Rainy Day Fund. The only difference is that the director of State Finance, a Fallin appointee, had access to the attorney general, another Fallin appointee and was able to secure an attorney general’s “opinion” that the executive branch of state government didn’t have to follow the Oklahoma Constitution.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House