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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt files lawsuit seeking cabinet clarity

Kevin Stitt (center) makes his way past an applauding Attorney General Gentner Drummond (right) at the 2023 State of the State Address.
Legislative Service Bureau
Kevin Stitt (center) makes his way past an applauding Attorney General Gentner Drummond (right) at the 2023 State of the State Address.

The Oklahoma Governor’s Office argues cabinet secretaries should still be able to hold a department agency leadership position at the same time.

That’s why Gov. Kevin Stitt filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgment in Oklahoma County District Court over the matter. Stitt had previously called a legal opinion by Attorney General Gentner Drummond a “head scratcher.”

“The Attorney General stands behind his legally binding opinion and welcomes the opportunity to respond to the lawsuit in a future filing,” Drummond said in a written statement.

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.

Stitt filed the suit alongside Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur, Secretary of Human Services Deb Shropshire and Secretary of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Shelley Zumwalt.

Stitt said he wants to protect those secretaries’ dual appointments as they also lead agencies.

“Since I took office, I’ve worked to find ways to run government efficiently and save the taxpayers money. I have the best people in Oklahoma running my state agencies, and it only makes sense to have them be my advisers,” Stitt said in a written statement.

Two former members of the governor’s cabinet have recently left their roles in the wake of the opinion.

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.

State lawmakers have also put forth an effort to protect at least one of the cabinet members. Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1196 Monday morning to specifically allow the person who serves as Commissioner of Agriculture to also serve in the governor’s cabinet as the Secretary of Agriculture.

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.
Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.