In his first Facebook post in more than a month, Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger has said State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones should resign, claiming the 2018 gubernatorial candidate has been “asleep at the wheel” amid issues at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
“Not only should he resign his current position as state auditor owing to gross incompetence,” Doerflinger wrote, “He should also end his bid to be our future governor which I predict NOW he does in the very near future. It’s time to put this guy(Gary Jones) out to pasture.”
Jones and his wife live on a farm southwest of Cache, Oklahoma, and “built their cow-calf operation for over 30 years,” according to Jones’ official state bio. Doerflinger confirmed Sunday night that his extended family also owns a cattle operation.
Doerflinger said Jones — a statewide elected official — should have to explain why he did not ring alarm bells when previous audits reportedly showed the agency was not “closing out” accounts.
“He knew year-in, year-out that they were not closing their books out, and if that wasn’t enough for the state auditor charged with ferreting out these types of situations (…) then who is charged with that? Who is supposed to do something?” Doerflinger asked. “I meant what I said when I said the guy was asleep at the wheel.”
Jones, also reached Sunday evening, characterized Doerflinger’s call for his resignation as “extremely bizarre.”
“My response right now is this is extremely irresponsible and unprofessional, and obviously we’re going to handle ourselves in a professional manner,” Jones said. “The truth is out, and to try to divert this onto one person is not responsible.”
But Doerflinger said Jones’ past silence on the OSDH issues confused him owing to the auditor’s reputation as a media-friendly politician.
“He’s not bashful about texting the governor. He’s never met a reporter or a camera he didn’t like,” Doerflinger said. “That’s factually correct. I’m only speaking what everybody else knows.”
Jones, on the other hand, said he does not want to overshadow an ongoing criminal investigation with political drama.
“I”m not going to speculate on what I think we know,” Jones said. “I’m going to wait until we know for sure.”
‘We’ve got major concerns’
Although it claims Jones told “no one” about OSDH issues, Doerflinger’s Facebook post comes just more than three days after Jones testified before the House Investigation Committee that he first told Doerflinger of problems at the health agency Sept. 1. Doerflinger’s previous testimony implied Jones first talked to him in October, though it mentioned an earlier meeting without a date.
Doerflinger, who the Oklahoma Board of Health appointed Oct. 30 to oversee the embattled agency while its previous leadership is investigated for potential criminal behavior, has become the House committee’s initial focus for its own political investigation.
To media and in testimony, Jones has said Doerflinger was the first and only person he told of the issues outside of his own office.
“The person who might be able to avert what would be imminent would be the secretary of finance,” Jones told committee members Dec. 14. “[Doerflinger] called me back, and I said, ‘We’ve got major concerns and they may not be able to make payroll in a few months.'”
After Jones’ testimony, Doerflinger issued a formal press release pushing back on the narrative that he had ignored problems at the agency:
The testimony given today was about assigning blame and political theater. If Auditor Jones did not feel my response to his initial conversation on Sept. 1 was adequate, then why did he not go directly to the OSDH Board — the governing body of the agency? Or to the governor, or to the legislative leadership who had the authority to appropriate money to help the agency make payroll?
There was also a lot of discussion about budget-to-actuals and how it factored into the problem. Both OMES and the Legislature have the ability to pull budget-to-actuals at any time. Additionally, I would say that, as appropriators, it’s the responsibility of the Legislature to look at not only what the agency was appropriated the prior year, but also at what was spent to see if it continues to need the same amount of money.
But Sunday night, the longtime director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services posted Oklahoma Watch’s latest update on OSDH and attacked Jones more directly in his Facebook post.
Sunday night trivia:
Q) Guess who had this information looooong before anyone else(late July/ first of August).
A) Our statewide elected auditor Gary Jones whose job it is to ferret out this type of corruption.
Q) Who did he tell ?
A)No one. Not the governor, not the Oklahoma State Board of Health(governing body), not the Speaker of the House of Representatives , not The President Pro-Tem of the Senate. NO one.
Our auditor, elected by the people of Oklahoma was asleep at the wheel. He is attempting to point the finger at others when the truth is he has been derelict in his duties.
Not only should he resign his current position as state auditor owing to gross incompetence. He should also end his bid to be our future governor which I predict NOW he does in the very near future. It’s time to put this guy(Gary Jones) out to pasture.
Stay tuned. As I remain focused on the mission of fixing the issues at the state dept. of health, there will be more revealed about Gary Jones(the politician) who thinks he is suitable to hold the highest office in state government. What A joke.
Btw… And in case you missed it, I’m not running for any future office. I am here to serve my fellow citizens. That’s all.
Sunday is not the first time Doerflinger has used Facebook to air grievances against political figures or entities. In January 2016, he criticized the chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Jones said he only ever brought up the date he contacted Doerflinger because the House committee erroneously claimed he had spoken with Gov. Mary Fallin about the matter. He said he hopes the House Special Investigation Committee is careful in its activities.
“I think it’s important to keep the facts as the facts, and we take whatever action that needs to be taken so things are not blown out of proportion,” Jones said.
Doerflinger questioned the House Special Investigation Committee’s actions so far.
“They have not talked to one current or past official from the state department of health,” he said.
While he panned the House committee, Doerflinger praised Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okmulgee).
“He’s the only person in the Senate or the House who has said, ‘Can I come over and sit down with you to try to gain an appreciation of what has happened?’ He’s the only guy, cause that’s how he operates,” Doerflinger said.
(Correction: This story was updated at 8:15 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18, to correct reference to how Doerflinger was appointed to the position of commissioner of health. NonDoc regrets the error.)