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Special Investigative Committee
House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) speaks to reporters May 15, 2017, at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (William W. Savage III)

House Speaker Charles McCall announced this afternoon that a new “Special Investigative Committee” has been formed to examine financial “mismanagement” at state agencies.

The committee, which a press release says will feature 11 Republicans and four Democrats, will begin meeting next week after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The allegations at the Department of Health are very concerning, and I share the public’s frustration with the mismanagement of at least $30 million in taxpayer funds,” McCall (R-Atoka) said in his release. “The Legislature has the authority to conduct an investigation, and our members want that to begin as soon as possible. This is a very serious matter, and I would encourage those associated with these allegations to cooperate fully with our investigation.”

McCall’s announcement comes less than 72 hours after Fallin vetoed a majority of HB 1019 on Friday night. The bill was the Legislature’s revised general appropriations bill, and the portions she left in place provided funding for the beleaguered health care agencies that had been the focus of the year’s first special session.

That included $30 million for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which is facing the scrutiny of a state audit and federal investigation following revelations that led to the resignation of Commissioner of Health Terry Cline in late October.

The Oklahoma Department of Tourism has also faced scrutiny over payment practices. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has found itself at odds with federal officials owing to confusion over contractual obligations and billing practices.

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The House’s Special Investigative Committee will begin its work ahead of a new body tasked with auditing the state’s top appropriated agencies. The Agency Performance and Accountability Commission is set for its first meeting Dec. 7, and staff members from the Senate and the executive branch have said the House is in charge of that committee as well.

The House’s full press release about its new Special Investigative Committee follows:

House Speaker McCall Forms Special Investigation Committee to Review Agency Mismanagement of Taxpayer Funds

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following revelations of apparent financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health, House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall today said he is empaneling a House Special Investigation Committee to begin conducting an investigation into the agency’s use of taxpayer dollars.

The committee will focus its investigation into the finances, state appropriations and other financial resources of the Department of Health and how they were managed. The scope of the committee’s investigation could expand to other agencies.

“The allegations at the Department of Health are very concerning, and I share the public’s frustration with the mismanagement of at least $30 million in taxpayer funds,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “The Legislature has the authority to conduct an investigation, and our members want that to begin as soon as possible. This is a very serious matter, and I would encourage those associated with these allegations to cooperate fully with our investigation.”

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.

State Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, will chair the investigation committee. McCall said Cockroft’s experience chairing the previous investigation committee makes him a strong choice to ensure a thorough investigation. State Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell, who previously served in the Attorney General’s Office, will serve as vice-chair of the committee.

The members of the Special Investigation Committee are as follows:

State Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, Chair

State Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell, Vice Chair

State Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Edmond

State Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City

State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville

State Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City

State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid

State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond

State Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond

State Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola

State Rep. Chuck Hoskin, D-Vinita

State Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester

State Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City

State Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel

McCall said the committee will begin meeting following the Thanksgiving break.

(Update: This post was updated at 7:50 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 21, to correct the spelling of Rep. Cyndi Munson’s name, which was listed incorrectly in the original press release. It was updated against at 1:37 p.m. to note Rep. Chuck Hoskin’s proper hometown.)

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William W. Savage III holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. He covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for eCapitol.net before working in health care for six years. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.