Monday, August 29, 2016


Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

    State Auditor Gary Jones says his office has been informed they will be evicted from their State Capitol office after the upcoming legislative session (May 2017).  In a post on Facebook, Jones said: “Since the Oklahoma State Capitol was built the Oklahoma State Auditor's office has had an office there. Sadly we were just notified that after the next legislative session we are being told to vacate and find rental space somewhere else. We are not happy! This decision was made by the House, Senate, and Office of Management Services with no input from our office.”  According the Jones, the reason for the ouster is the Secretary of State and the Office of State Finance need more office ‘meeting’ space.  What happened to this ‘streamline’ government campaign promise? Jones says his office will have to pay $70,000 plus annually for rent. 
     First, Jones has obviously made some enemies at the Capitol.  The Auditor has never been shy about expressing his opinion on how other elected officials do their job.  He took on the legislature when they cut his budget and said their budget expertise reminded him of a verse of scripture- “forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.”  Jones traveled the state promoting a unicameral legislature (one body) similar to Nebraska, saying we needed to send half of the 149 state legislators’ home permanently.     Those statements didn’t set well with legislative leadership.  Whether you agree with the Auditor’s opinion or not, you have to admire someone who doesn’t bow to political pressure and speaks the truth to power.  According to Jones, Secretary of State Finance Preston Doerflinger was the messenger, but rest assured the decision to boot the Auditor out of the Capitol was made by House and Senate leadership with the approval of the Governor.  If that is not the case and the decision was made solely by a bureaucrat, then it needs to be walked back quickly and there should be some ’plaining done.  When Jones’ political enemies retaliate by costing Oklahoma taxpayers money, it ceases to be a personal vendetta- it becomes everyone’s business. 
     Second, this was either a boneheaded political move or one with a very definitive objective.  Jones’ political enemies knew how he would react to being thrown out of the Capitol.  He is not one to go gentle into that good night.  They knew he would react publically, so why did they do it? Did they throw Jones a rope to help him hang himself or did they fail to see how the general public would react to a clearly political move?  Like they say, “some people are stupid like a fox.”  The fact is Jones, the former State Chair of the Oklahoma GOP, presents a real threat to special interests in Oklahoma.  He has been vocal about transferable tax credits and pushed to have the legislature give his office authority to audit those who receive the tax credits.  That went nowhere in the legislature in spite of record revenue shortfalls, partially due to tax credits.  That makes some powerful people unhappy.  It could be the real objective is to make Jones look like a whiner in the eyes of the public, but that is a risky move.  Time will tell if Jones’ political enemies are geniuses or idiots.    
     Third, how is it that an appointed official can tell an elected official to vacate their office?  Doerflinger was appointed by the Governor.  He serves at the will of the Governor.  Jones is an elected official.  What has happened to our state government when bureaucrats believe they have more power than those who face voters at the ballot box?  Perhaps Jones should tell Doerflinger to get a court order to evict the Auditor from the Capitol and see how far that goes. 
     True conservative state legislators should be asking some questions about this.  Political retaliation happens all the time but when it costs the taxpayers money and removes a vital State Agency’s office from the people’s house, it is wrong.  This is precisely why Oklahoma should have the ability to recall elected officials.  Term limits and Recall must go hand in hand.  When elected officials are term limited and know they will not face the voters again, they often believe they are a great sovereign ruler and not a public servant.  They ignore their constituents.  Contact your state legislator and ask them why the Auditor is being evicted from the people’s house- and make them give you an answer that makes sense.

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