Last spring a grand jury blamed mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health for a financial deception that fueled resignations, layoffs and months of heated capitol hearings. In response, state Senator Ron Sharp filed a trio of bills that he says will improve agency transparency.
The grand jury started probing the Health Department in November 2017 after officials reported a sudden budget shortfall. The resulting financial crisis led to the layoffs of nearly 200 employees and an emergency infusion from lawmakers of $30 million dollars.
Last spring, a grand jury report found that the health agency never needed the money and the layoffs were completely unnecessary. The grand jury blamed the agency’s antiquated internal financial system and found evidence of misconduct, but none considered illegal under state laws.
Republican Shawnee Senator Sharp proposed bills that change the embezzlement statute to include public funds not reported to the legislature, require an annual audit of the health agency and mandate all state agencies post to their websites an overall financial summary each fiscal year. The legislative session begins February 4th.