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Oklahoma AG's opinion creates potential chaos for Stitt's cabinet

Governor Kevin Stitt speaks to Oklahoma Watch reporter Paul Monies at the Capitol on March 26, 2019.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch
Governor Kevin Stitt speaks to Oklahoma Watch reporter Paul Monies at the Capitol on March 26, 2019.

Gov. Kevin Stitt called a legal opinion by Attorney General Gentner Drummond a “head scratcher.”

The opinion says state officials can only hold one elected or appointed position at a time.

“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 reads, referencing state statute.

It has already prompted two members in the governor’s cabinet to resign.

“His opinion is that a secretary can not be a director,” Stitt said during a press conference Friday. “We think that affects every single person in the cabinet that serves in a director role.”

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell resigned as Secretary of Workforce Development Wednesday morning, hours before Drummond’s press release containing the opinion was published.

Pinnell was followed later that day by Department of Transportation director, Tim Gatz, who gave up his appointments as Secretary of Transportation and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Stitt said he questions Drummond’s motive, calling the opinion a weaponization of the attorney general’s elected office. Stitt also said the timing of the decision is peculiar, as Governor’s going back to Henry Bellmon in the 1960s have all assembled their cabinets the same way, with some appointees leading other government agencies.

The governor said no one else in his cabinet plans to vacate their office until he and his legal team can get some clarification on the opinion.

He says the attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law behind it, so he has to abide for now. But he plans to argue against it, and those arguments are expected to make it to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Once there, Stitt says he believes precedent and available legal arguments are in his favor.

Lionel Ramos covers state government at KOSU. He joined the station in January 2024 after covering race and equity as a Report For America corps member at Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative newsroom in Oklahoma City.