Monday, October 30, 2017

Richardson blames Lamb for Tourism Department misdoings

Continuing his theme of attacking gubernatorial campaign rival Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Gary Richardson is attempting to tie recent revelations of financial misconduct in the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation to Lamb.

I'll have some corrections to Richardson's comments below his press release.

[corrected release]

October 29, 2017 -- GOP candidate for Governor, Gary Richardson, wants law enforcement to investigate allegations of corruption at the Oklahoma Tourism Department.  Richardson is a former U.S. Attorney who earned a national reputation for aggressively prosecuting fraud, waste and abuse.

The allegations of corruption were revealed by Fox 25 Investigative Reporter, Phil Cross, during the Wednesday night newscast. Richardson hopes the Attorney General, State Auditor’s Office and OSBI have taken notice and will act.

“The Lt. Governor is supposed to be in charge of the Tourism Department.  How long has he known about this?  Why hasn’t he acted before now?” Gary Richardson asks.  “I suspect the Lt. Governor is so busy traveling the state campaigning with the taxpayer's money, he completely fails to do the job we pay him to do.  He either knew about it and is complicit, or he didn't know about it, which means he's not taking care of business.  It must be one or the other.”

Lt. Governor serves as Chairman of the Tourism Department.  It is the only chairmanship duty assigned to the Lt. Governor's office.

“If our Lt. Governor will not manage the only agency under his watch, why would anyone trust him to manage the entire state as Governor?” says Richardson. “Oklahoma is facing a serious crisis and we need serious people to find solutions.  This report says more than I ever could about why we must audit every state agency, trust and authority.”

Richardson states "According to the Oklahoma State Constitution, the Lt. Governor serves as Chairman of the Tourism Department."  That is not correct. The Tourism Department is not a constitutionally-created agency (it is, however, a statutorily-created one), nor is the chairmanship of the nine-member Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission assigned by statute to the Lieutenant Governor. Rather, the chairmanship is appointed by the Governor. [the original release has been corrected since first publication]

Richardson calls Lamb the "Chairman of the Tourism Department", and "in charge" of the Department. However, that's not the exact situation. The Lieutenant Governor is an ex-officio member of the nine-member Tourism and Recreation Commission, which oversees and appoints the Executive Director, who in turn actually runs the Department. Lamb is chairman of the Commission (not the Department) by appointment from Governor Fallin.

While the executive director is hired by the Tourism Commission, the director appears to pretty much have free rein in operating the Tourism Department and carrying out objectives and policies set by the Commission.

Richardson's campaign seems to be developing a habit of stretching or mischaracterizing the duties and authorities of the Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor. I'm not a big fan of such negative campaign tactics; pointing out differences in past record, public statements or proposed policies is one thing, but it should be kept factual and truthful.

I do agree with Richardson's sentiment that state agencies need more oversight. The FOX 25 story is more evidence of how important the State Auditor's office is in uncovering misconduct and waste in state government. The Legislature should be looking for ways to keep a tighter rein on government spending, and utilize and fund the Auditor's office more in order to accomplish that. Every dollar spent in the State Auditor's office goes to ensuring that every other dollar spent by the state is properly used and not wasted.


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