OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointee, who headed Oklahoma’s school lands office for two years, tendered his resignation Thursday amid allegations of personal dealings and embezzlement of taxpayer money .
At the start of Thursday’s meeting of Land Office commissioners, Secretary Elliot Chambers announced that he had tendered his resignation to Stitt effective August 3.
Neither he nor Stitt, who thanked Chambers for his service to the agency, addressed the controversy.
The governor declined to answer questions after the meeting.
A day earlier, it was revealed that Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who are both land office commissioners, had requested new formal responses to the allegations against Chambers.
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Hofmeister said a second whistleblower has come forward. In light of that, she had issued demands for law enforcement to investigate and a call for Chambers’ resignation from the low-key state agency that oversees $2.7 billion in real estate and other investments. to support public education.
In addition, the Office of State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd said on Wednesday it had just received a formal request from the governor for a financial and operational audit of Land Office commissioners.
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 concerns raised by another senior employee about their boss, Chambers.
The main concerns reported internally to the CLO in early December concerned a company called Victorum Capital, which was paid by the CLO as an investment consultant. Later in December, Victorum’s role at CLO was expanded to also manage these direct investments with public funds.
The former CLO internal auditor reported being told that CLO secretary Chambers had a personal investment relationship with Victorum which was never disclosed to the five Land Office commissioners.
The CLO Board of Directors is chaired by Stitt; Hofmeister, Byrd, Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell and Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur are also members.
Arthur was absent from Thursday’s meeting.
On the agenda were annual contract renewals for investment managers, including Victorum, which sparked an in-depth conversation.
Pinnell made a motion to approve the dozen contracts, with Victorum’s renewal only temporary for 60 days so CLO could issue a request for proposals to replace the company with another investment manager.
Hofmeister said she couldn’t support even a temporary Victorum renewal. She asked pointed questions about why staff members had canceled previously scheduled board meetings for May and June 10, forcing the board to decide such an important issue on the last day of the fiscal year.
“It’s a difficult situation,” she said. “Here we are in the last hour.”
Byrd asked if current investment management contracts include contingencies that would keep them valid if the board doesn’t vote to renew them by Day 1 of a new fiscal year.
Attorney General Bennett Abbott said he didn’t know the answer.
Stitt asked if not renewing Victorum’s contract would just “liquidate” the investments he was managing and automatically return them to the state’s portfolio.
Byrd commented, “I’m afraid there are adverse effects.”
In the end, the vote on Pinnell’s motion passed, 3 to 1, with Hofmeister voting the only “no”.
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.