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Impact of Oklahoma AG’s opinion on other Stitt cabinet posts unclear

OKLAHOMA CITY – A recent Oklahoma Attorney General opinion prohibiting dual office holding might have implications for other members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet.

Two cabinet secretaries have resigned since Wednesday.

The same day the opinion came out, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell resigned as Stitt’s secretary of workforce development.

In his resignation email, Pinnell did not reference the opinion, but said it was time to step away from the cabinet.

“With the number of boards and commissions that I currently serve on, and with the number of lieutenant governor requests for my time, I believe it’s the best path,” Pinnell wrote. “I look forward to continuing to advise the Governor on workforce and economic development.”

On Wednesday, Tim Gatz resigned as secretary of transportation. He also was head of both the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

He was reappointed to lead ODOT. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is looking for a new executive director.

The opinion defined public office as: a position created or authorized by law; the law imposes certain definite duties on the position holder; and the duties imposed involve “the exercise of some portion of sovereign power.”

The opinion laid out when a post is vacated.

“If a state officer enters upon the duties of a second office in violation of the dual office holding prohibition, it operates as a vacation of the first office,” the opinion said. “The vacation of the first office is self-executing and notwithstanding the person’s intention of continuing to hold the first office.”

The Legislature has made some exceptions, but none applied to Gatz, according to the opinion.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s office was asked Thursday about the opinion’s impact on other members of Stitt’s cabinet.

“The Attorney General’s opinion clearly states that no individual may hold two public offices simultaneously unless specifically authorized by statute,” said Phil Bacharach, a spokesperson.

Some Oklahoma officials lead state agencies in addition to serving on Stitt’s cabinet.

Blayne Arthur is secretary of agriculture and runs the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

She was not available for comment.

Shelley Zumwalt serves as secretary of tourism, wildlife and heritage. She is also the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

Chase Horn, a spokesperson, said the agency is deferring to the Attorney General’s Office.

Dr. Deborah Shropshire serves as secretary of human services and Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ executive director.

A DHS spokesperson said the agency was studying the opinion.

John Laws serves as the state’s chief financial officer and secretary of budget.

John Suter serves as the state’s chief operating officer, executive director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and secretary of operations and government efficiency.

An OMES spokesperson did not respond late Thursday to a request for comment.

Josh Cockroft serves as secretary of state and as chief policy advisor to Stitt.

Cockcroft said late Thursday that he was unavailable and referred questions to Stitt’s office.

Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, requested the opinion. She asked if Gatz could legally hold all three posts.

Boren on Thursday said cabinet secretaries should determine if the opinion applies to them.

She said the opinion likely does apply to other cabinet members.

Stitt’s office had no comment.

This article is from nonprofit Oklahoma Voice.