House subpoenas withdrawn when officials agree to appear

The chair of the House Special Investigation Committee recently served three state officials with subpoenas to appear before the committee and produce evidence related to apparent financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health.

Subpoenas were served to Preston Doerflinger, director of the Office of Management Enterprise Services and acting director of the Department of Health, Denise Northrup, acting director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, and Chris Benge, chief of staff for Gov. Mary Fallin.  On December 1, those subpoenas were withdrawn when they agreed to testify voluntarily.

State Rep. Josh Cockroft said the committee is looking forward to working with those individuals to help lawmakers determine how the apparent financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health occurred.

In addition, Cockroft said the committee is reaching out to representatives for former Commissioner of Health Terry Cline and former Deputy Commissioner of Health Julie Cox-Kain to determine their willingness to cooperate with the committee.

“We received a response from all three individuals, and each of them offered to help us expedite the process,” said Cockroft, R-Wanette. “They assured us there is no need for a subpoena and they are each willing to appear before the committee to provide answers to our questions as early as the end of next week. In exchange for their voluntary cooperation, the committee is withdrawing its subpoena at this time. We are thankful for their willingness to appear by invitation, and I hope that others are willing to cooperate as well. Our belief is by starting with these three individuals we will get a broad understanding of how the agencies communicate with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services  and the Governor’s Office regarding the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. With this overview,  we can then move forward with specific inquiries into the financial mismanagement at the Department of Health, and other agencies as needed.”

The Special Investigation Committee was formed by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, to begin conducting an investigation into the Department of Health’s use of taxpayer dollars.

“The mismanagement of more than $30 million in taxpayer dollars is incredibly frustrating for citizens and the members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives,” said Rep. Cockroft, R-Wanette. “It is inexcusable. Our constituents want answers, and we intend to find out how and why this happened. This is not a criminal investigation. Those are being handled by our law enforcement entities. But the Legislature has the sole authority and responsibility to appropriate taxpayer dollars, and we intend to make sure that is being done according to the law and for the intended purposes that those funds were appropriated.”

Article V Section 30 of the Oklahoma Constitution gives the Legislature the power to investigate governmental misconduct, and Section 7 of the House Rules empower legislative committees to “inspect and investigate the books, records, papers, documents, data, operation and physical plant of any public agency in this state.”  The House Rules further authorize House committees to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony and production of evidence.

The Investigation Committee will hold several meetings the week of December 18-22.