Thursday, March 16, 2023

AG Drummond asks State Auditor to perform investigative audit of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

This should make Gary Richardson happy.

Or, as I saw someone else say, the first step to Making Turnpikes Free Again?

Drummond requests investigative audit of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 15, 2023) – Amid swirling allegations involving the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA), Attorney General Gentner Drummond today requested that state Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd conduct an investigative audit of the agency.

“I have had many conversations over the past few months with legislators, community leaders, private citizens and state employees who have expressed a wide array of concerns with the financial conduct of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (“OTA”),” Drummond wrote in the March 15 letter to Byrd. “These concerns include but are not limited to improper transfers between the OTA and the Department of Transportation; improper contracting and purchasing practices; and inadequate internal financial controls."

In December, a Cleveland County district judge held that the OTA had willfully violated Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act because of vague wording in its January and February meeting agendas.

Drummond said that violation is particularly troubling.

“Such a blatant disregard for openness and transparency suggests to me a willingness to engage in any manner of unlawful conduct,” he wrote.

The audit request comes amid Sunshine Week, which this year runs March 12-18. The annual, nationwide event promotes public access to information and open government.

The Attorney General's letter to Auditor Byrd can be read here. [or viewed below]

Drummond's letter got this response from some Norman-area legislators (ground zero of a recent controversial expansion proposed by OTA):

Norman lawmakers release statement regarding Attorney General’s request to audit Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Sen. Mary Boren, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, Rep. Annie Menz, and Rep. Jared Deck released the following statement Thursday regarding Attorney General Drummond’s letter sent Wednesday to State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd requesting an investigative audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA).

“Our hometown of Norman and its residents have been in a constant state of worry since the Access Oklahoma plan was announced. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s plan threatens homes, wildlife, fair and reliable funding for roads, and our community as a whole. After months of legal battles, the authority is now under investigation for financial misconduct and blatantly disregarding the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. You can find more information about the Attorney General’s request at” -Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman.

“OTA has not done a great job of taking into account the thoughts and concerns of the Oklahomans that their plans effect. Unfortunately, our constituents have had to sacrifice significant amounts of time and money to make sure their rights were honored by OTA. We know that this is not just a Norman issue- the way OTA operates reaches every corner of the state. This issue is non-partisan and has invited lawmakers to work together across the aisle. I have been encouraged by the many ways our colleagues have crossed party lines to include us in meetings and proposed legislation.”- Rep. Annie Menz, D-Norman.

“We greatly appreciate Attorney General Drummond for taking action and sharing our concerns about OTA’s methods of conducting business. In particular, his concerns of improper transfers between OTA and the Department of Transportation, improper contracting and purchasing, and ‘inadequate internal financial controls.’” -Rep. Jared Deck, D-Norman.

“This audit will hopefully result in more accountability and transparency from OTA and state government as a whole. While I agree that we need to improve roads and transportation systems in our state, I also know that Oklahomans deserve to have a collaborative and proactive voice in projects that will drastically affect their lives and businesses.” -Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. 


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