Sunday, April 28, 2024


 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector (SA&I) Cindy Byrd released the annual audit results from the Federal Single Audit this week.  The audit covered 2022 expenditures.  The annual audit is mandated by the feds to make sure COVID 19 Relief grant money is spent in accordance with federal regulations. This is the second year the SA&I has found questionable practices by the state in using the federal funds.  In this year’s audit, Byrd found the following: 

     Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) did not follow the state law requiring competitive bidding for vendors.  Using COVID as an excuse, the bureaucratic heavy agency waived the law and conducted what they termed, ‘rolling solicitations,’ with established vendors.  Byrd says this was in clear violation of the provisions set forth in the federal grant program.    

     Byrd claims OMES also did a poor job verifying the work of a consulting firm hired to oversee the CARES grant process.  The consultant was paid over $1 million dollars and Bryd says it’s not clear all the work the consultant claimed to have done was done.  The consultant counters they did a stellar job.

     Byrd alleges the State Tourism Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt husband’s software firm benefited from more than $8 million of computer work at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.  Zumwalt denied wrongdoing and welcomes an investigation.  Three observations about the audit:  

     First, circumventing the competitive bid process is problematic.  State law is clear! Oklahoma law requires competitive bidding.  OMES was created in 2012 for the purpose of overseeing the state’s accounting, budgeting, capital assets management, information technology, HR, and making sure agencies follow procurement standards (competitive bidding).  OMES is controlled solely by the governor.  The director is appointed by the governor.   OMES was created to give the governor more power.  OMES has evolved into what critics of its initial creation thought it would become- an arrogant, self-important bureaucracy and an unnecessarily created extra layer of government.

     What exactly is ‘rolling solicitations?’  Apparently, it is a program that favors the incumbent vendor and blocks other vendors from getting the opportunity to bid?  What mental giant came up with that strategy?  It clearly violates state law and the people responsible should be held accountable. Not having a competitive bid process will result in corruption and good ole boy network.

     Second, state officials can’t do business with the state.  Zumwalt isn’t the first (and will not be the last) elected official/appointee to see nothing wrong with doing commerce with the state, but it is clearly a conflict of interest.  It doesn’t matter if the state got a fair deal in the transaction, it shouldn’t happen.  If a person has to make a buck off taxpayers, don’t work for the state.  It’s that simple!    

     Third, government is not a private business.  Government should be businesslike, but rules that apply to government aren’t always applicable to business.  A private business can award contracts to a vendor without doing competitive bidding.  They can do business with their friends and willingly pay a higher price for goods and services.  They are accountable only to ownership.  Government is accountable to voters/citizens.  That requires transparency, a deliberate, intentional and often tedious process.  A competitive bid process can be viewed as inefficient, cumbersome and time consuming.  That is when geniuses come up with programs like, ‘rolling solicitation,’ to bypass state law.  If an elected official or appointed bureaucrat can’t follow those pesky, annoying state laws, then they shouldn’t run for office or accept an appointment to work in government.  It’s too restrictive and cumbersome for their superior intellect.  They should stick to the private sector. 

     The elected official serving as SA&I is Oklahoma’s watchdog.  They are directly elected by the people.  In the past 15 years, the state legislature has done everything possible to diminish the authority and bypass the office instead of partnering with the SA&I.  It’s time for that to change and while they are at it to dismantle OMES. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

There should be consequences for untruthful/deceitful speech!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma Senate Bill 1737 (SB#1737), authored by Sen. Todd Gollihare, (R-Tulsa) and Rep. Jeff Boatman, (R-Tulsa) has passed both chambers and awaits Governor Stitt’s signature.  According to the summary of the bill, SB#1737 would allow victims of stalking or electronic harassment to file a cause of action against the perpetrator for actual and punitive damages and injunctive relief when the victim has suffered business interruption or has incurred expenses to remediate the underlying online stalking.  It sailed through the House by a vote of 80-1, with 20 House members ‘excused’ from voting (20%- big number!) and through the Senate 44-2. 

     Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) President Jonathan Small wrote a column saying SB#1737 is a windfall for trial lawyers and will make it easier to harass political opponents by promoting civil action against those practicing free speech in the political arena.  Small urges Oklahomans to contact the governor and ask him to veto SB#1737.  Three observations:

     First, there should be consequences for untruthful/deceitful speech.  Genuinely honest differing views between political opponents should never digress to lying, deceptive double-dealing falsehoods. Libeling or defaming the character of an opponent is over the line.  Most politicos agree, but forget that principle when the campaign starts.  Defamation of an opponent’s character and caricaturing positions is commonplace.

     To prove defamation of character, a plaintiff must prove four things: (1) A lie was purported to be fact, (2) A lie was published or communicated to a third party, (3) A lie was the result of negligence (intentional), (4) A lie caused harm or damage.  Courts have been disinclined to intervene in political defamation disputes because free speech is constitutionally protected.  Because of the court’s reluctance, and the lack of ethics in politics, truth in the public arena is threatened. 

     Second, is SB#1737 targeted legislation?  Small believes the legislation is a result of OCPA’s dispute with Paycom.  OCPA, a conservative think tank, was sued by Paycom a couple of years ago after it mentioned the Paycom CEO in a column regarding COVID restrictions.  The lawsuit was dismissed.  The bill’s authors claim the ‘electronic’ component is what is missing in the state’s statutes and their motivation is to protect a citizen’s right to protect their reputation.   If SB#1737 is aimed at or a reaction to a specific incident, it is inappropriate legislation.  Lawmakers all too often, run bills to benefit an industry, special interest, or friend, with little regard to the consequences for the general public.

     Third, businesses should probably stick to business.  Unless they are a lobbying firm, they should focus on the primary reason they are in business.  When a business makes the conscious decision to deviate from selling their goods or service and enter the political arena, they should expect consequences.  They risk boycotts, repercussions, and value judgments from customers.  Competitors will take advantage and volume and profitability can suffer.  SB#1737 provides activist business leaders a safety net, but is that necessary?

     Free speech is a fundamental right in America.  The harm principle is defined as ‘your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.’  People should be free to act as they wish as long as their actions do not cause harm to others.

     Everyone is entitled to their opinion and they are entitled to express it online.  There are going to be opinions you don’t agree with.  Some of the people expressing those opinions will do it in a not so nice way.  If your response is to not be nice, or to actually threaten or harass them, you must be willing to pay the price.


Sunday, April 14, 2024

Israel factors into the end of time!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     On Saturday evening, Iran launched 300 attack drones and missiles into Israel.  A seven-year-old girl was seriously injured by shrapnel from a missile.  Most of the drones and cruise missiles were downed before they reached the Israeli border.  Some did penetrate Israel’s Iron Dome and struck an airbase in southern Israel, causing minimal damage. American military stationed in Syria got involved by shooting down drones headed toward Israel.  Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon shut down their airspace for several hours.

     Israeli officials pledged an unprecedented response to the attack in ‘their time.’  Iran claims the killing of seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IGC) soldiers, including two generals, in an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy in Syria April 1st justified the attack.  Iran has vowed to respond to a counterattack on a much larger scale, including retaliating against United States military bases.  The White House released a statement saying President[S1]  Biden spent 25 minutes on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reaffirmed, “America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”  Three observations:

     First, Biden doesn’t support an Israeli counterattack.  He allegedly told Netanyahu the U.S. would not join offensive operations against Iran if Israel launched a retaliatory attack.  He told Bibi to ‘take the win,’ referring to the minimum damage Iran’s drones and missiles caused.   Biden met with the G7 leaders to coordinate a ‘diplomatic’ response to the attack.  Iran has been under strict economic sanctions from most of the world because of human rights violations, but it doesn’t appear to have accomplished much.  The Israeli leadership have never been those who ‘take the win.’  They are more like the ‘never back down from a fight,’ crowd. Israel actually means ‘fighter’ in Hebrew.

     Second, the nations of the world are choosing up sides.  Russia has sent warships to the area, while cautioning both countries to exercise restraint, but Iran is a strong Russia ally.  Iran provides Moscow with drones, ballistic missiles and fighter jets for their war with Ukraine.  Russia doesn’t want their supply chain of military hardware disrupted.

     Chinese leaders said they were deeply concerned by the attacks, but over the past few decades, China and Iran have become strategic strong trade partners.  Iran’s abundant energy resources supply China a significant percentage of oil.

     Great Britian, France, Canada, and most of the western world have lined up behind Israel.  Some are calling this the start of WWIII.  Nostradamus, the renowned 16th century French astrologer known for his prophetic writings, predicted a naval war in 2024 by a ‘Red adversary,’ so there’s that.

     Third, in scripture, Israel factors into the end of time.  What happens to Israel has been a topic of interest and debate among Christian believers for centuries.  Several Old Testament prophets wrote about the restoration of Israel in the end times.  Some prophecies suggest the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem before the return of Jesus Christ.  The promise of God to Abraham and his descendants regarding the land of Canaan (now Israel) is seen as an enduring covenant.  In the New Testament, there are references to the return of Christ that is linked to the restoration and salvation of Israel.  Some believe Israel will embrace Jesus as the Messiah before the end of time.  While there is much conjecture, supposition, and hypotheses about end times, it is clear Israel is an element.

     Since the state of Israel was established in 1948, no nation has been a bigger supporter than the United States.  Through the years, most Americans supported that policy.  As less and less people understand the significance of Israel plays in the plan of God, support has waned.  Israel is not infallible, but they win in the end.  Is this the end?  God only knows.    

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Send the candidates who are hirelings, lackadaisical voters and novices home!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     Filing for political offices ended on Friday in Oklahoma.  During the three-day filing period, 285 people filed for the legislature, U.S. House and the open Corporation Commission seat.  This was the lowest number of candidates to file for office in the Sooner state since 2012, when 275 filed.  Three Republicans threw their hat into the ring for the open Corporation Commission seat Bob Anthony has held for 36 years.  The GOP nominee will face a Democrat and Libertarian nominee in the November general election.  That race is the sole statewide race on the 2024 ballot.

     Six incumbent Republican state senators filed unopposed.  There are twenty-six (26) senate districts up for election in 2024.  Forty-two (42) incumbent state representatives filed unopposed.  Over 40% of the 127 legislative seats up for election in 2024 will have no race.   Either lawmakers are doing a bang-up job or no one wants the job.  The truth is voters are apathic about politics.  Most have little idea what is going on in their local and state government. 

     There are four county elective offices up for election in all 77 counties this cycle: Sherriff, County District #2, County Clerk, and County Court Clerk.  The vast majority of incumbents in those races filed unopposed.  Three observations:

     First, unopposed incumbents should not equate not having an opponent with stellar performance.  The truth is the vast majority of the voting public have little idea what their elected officials’ duties are.  Before a politico starts slapping themselves on the back, they need to acknowledge their uncontested race could be that no one wants the job.       

      Second, it is the voter’s job to vet candidates.  This year has attracted a large number of novice candidates In ‘open’ seats (no incumbent).  These newcomers know little to nothing about the issues or the duties of the office they are seeking.  They were recruited by a special interest group trying to buy a seat or a political consultant looking to make a buck.  If the neophyte happens to be elected, they will be trained to do the bidding of those who funded the campaign.  Beware of first-time candidates who have never shown interest in politics, but last week rolled out of bed and filed for office.  Be wary of candidates who have a history of not being a faithful voter.  Voters shouldn’t elect people who have little to no respect for the privilege of voting.  Those candidates may be marketable/electable, but voters can ill afford to train someone on the job. 

     Third, elected officials should be servant leaders.  In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law advises him to seek out servant leaders with four attributes: (1) competence (2) fear God, (3) trustworthy/honest, and (4) not covetous.  In other words, people of action and those with a track record, not those who are self-promoting narcissists seeking office to be somebody, not to do something.

     Sorting through the campaign propaganda is a challenge.  Every candidate says they have the four characteristics described, but few possess them.  Oklahoma requires candidates report campaign contributions to the Ethics Commission.  Who is donating to a candidate provides insight as to where their allegiance lies.  Ask candidates tough questions, and don’t give them the answer you want to hear when asking the question.  Don’t allow them to speak in generalities.  Make them be specific on their position. 

     Campaign signs are already out.  Soon mailboxes will be full with slick printed brochures.  Facebook posts will abound with candidate boasting.  Oklahoma voters should be diligent and vet the candidates in every race.   Send the hirelings, lackadaisical voters and novices back home to a real job.  We deserve better.  The primary is June 18th.