State Unemployment Chief Resigns; Office of Management and Enterprise Services Now Processing Claims

May 22, 2020

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Robin Roberson resigned Friday hours after OESC handed over unemployment claim processing and other tasks to the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Roberson's resignation was first reported by The Oklahoman. Roberson was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Gov. Kevin Stitt picked her to lead OESC and put off a double mastectomy after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

After a vote by commissioners, OESC will consolidate its IT division and business practices into OMES. That includes designing processes that disburse funds and identify fraud.

Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration David Ostrowe said OESC is still responsible for making sure claims are processed and paid, someone else will just be doing the work.

"This is a relationship between the agency that’s no different from a relationship with a third-party vendor. And so, if the relationship’s not working, the agency has ability to change it at any time and terminate the relationship," Ostrowe said.

Roberson, speaking before she resigned, said OESC will still be very involved because federal pandemic assistance is particularly complex.

"We have to follow very strict guidance and rules, and sometimes we even get daily guidance," Roberson said.

Commission member Trent Smith said OESC needs a lot of help with pandemic unemployment assistance claims, and he’s certain OMES Director Steven Harpe can provide it.

"We heard from Director Harpe at OMES that by the end of next Friday, 50% of the PUA claims would be processed. The week after that the other 50% would be processed," Smith said. "This is straight from Director Harpe’s mouth to my ears, and if he can do that, we need to let him do it."

There have been widespread reports of problems with Oklahoma’s unemployment system, including claims not being processed. According to OESC, around 440,000 Oklahomans have filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OESC has identified thousands of fictitious claims. They may be related to a Nigerian crime ring running a massive attack on state unemployment systems.

Updated May 22, 3:20 p.m. to add Roberson's resignation.