Stitt Calls for an Audit, Hofmeister Calls for a Law Enforcement Investigation, and the Resignation of the School’s Land Office Secretary | Government and politics

Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister are demanding further responses to allegations of personal dealings and embezzlement of taxpayer funds at the school lands office.

On Wednesday morning, Hofmeister called for a law enforcement investigation and called for the resignation of Elliot Chambers, the Stitt-appointed secretary of the state agency called Commissioners of the Land Office, which oversees $2.7 billion. dollars in real estate and other investments to support public education.

Also on Wednesday, the office of State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd said it received a formal request for a financial and operational audit from Stitt’s CLO.

But Trey Davis, spokesman for Byrd’s office, said: ‘We are unable to honor the request because the state auditor is a commissioner of the Land Office, which creates a conflict of interest issue. interests and independence due to government auditing standards. The CLO has an audit of financial statements performed annually which is available on the State Auditor’s website at bit.ly/landofficeaudits.

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In early June, a Tulsa World investigation found that a CLO internal auditor had been fired less than a week after reviewing conflict of interest issues raised by another senior employee about their boss, the secretary of CLO Chambers.

Hofmeister, who is one of five members of the commission, said in a press release Wednesday morning that a second whistleblower has come forward and Chambers should resign immediately.

A CLO spokesperson said Chambers had no comment on Wednesday.

“As I have said recently, the concerns raised by the former internal auditor for the Land Office Commissioners are alarming and need to be fully investigated,” Hofmeister said in a written press release. “Since that time, additional information has come forward that leaves me with no confidence in the leadership of the agency under Secretary Chambers. Accordingly, I believe it is in Oklahoma’s interest that Secretary Chambers resign immediately and respectfully invite him to do so.

Hofmeister also wrote to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Wednesday, requesting a law enforcement investigation into the operations and finances of the school’s land office.

According to Prater’s response shortly thereafter, which The Tulsa World received through a request to Hofmeister’s office, the matter is under investigation.

“Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention,” Prater wrote in response to Hofmeister. “I will determine how best to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter and take appropriate action if necessary.”

Land Office commissioners have a special meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon to make up for the regular monthly meeting in June which had been canceled by agency staff.

Hofmeister told the Tulsa World that she personally requested the executive session scheduled to discuss former internal auditor Erin Morgan’s exit from the agency, which was initially a dismissal that she disputed.

The case was eventually resolved when Chambers and Morgan signed a settlement agreement labeled “confidential”, prohibiting either party from disparaging the other, and Morgan was reinstated on administrative leave for approximately two months so she can become fully invested in her public retirement account. then was allowed to resign.

After her dismissal and prior to the settlement, Morgan escalated the conflict of interest issues she had documented from the CLO’s Director of Commercial Real Estate directly to two statewide elected officials who are members of the commission that oversees the CLO. : Hofmeister and Byrd.

The main concern reported to Morgan in early December involved a company called Victorum Capital, which was paid by the CLO as an investment consultant.

Morgan reported being told that CLO secretary Chambers had a personal investment relationship with Victorum which was never disclosed to the five Land Office commissioners.

Morgan was fired in January.

The CLO board of directors is chaired by Governor Kevin Stitt, and Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell and Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur are also members.

Hofmeister, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, is challenging Stitt in his bid for re-election. The governor won his Republican primary on Tuesday and the duo will appear on the November general election ballot.

According to data requested from the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the CLO has seen a turnover of 56% of its 57 full-time employees since Chambers was appointed CLO secretary by Stitt in July 2020.

A week ago, Oklahoma Attorney General nominee Gentner Drummond also called for Chambers’ resignation, saying, “It is clear to me that Secretary Chambers has an untenable personal conflict and should immediately resign from his position as Secretary to the Land Office Commissioners. ”

Gregory M. Roy