Brandt Vawter, the acting secretary for the Commissioners of the Land Office who lacked a statutorily required credential for the position, has resigned.
In a March 20 letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Vawter offered his “best wishes” to the Commissioners of the Land Office, which oversees more than $2 billion worth of oil and gas leases, agricultural land and commercial assets that help fund common education.
Vawter’s full resignation letter was brief and appears unedited below:
Dear Governor Stitt:
Please accept this letter as my formal notification that I am leaving my position as Acting Secretary with the Commissioners of the Land Office, effective immediate
I am grateful to have been able to serve the State of Oklahoma these last 9 months I offer my best wishes to the continued success of the CLO. If there is anything I can do to assist with the transition please let me know.
In September, Paul Monies of Oklahoma Watch reported that Vawter lacked the “advanced degree” required by state statute for the Commissioners of the Land Office secretary. Monies’ article also examined a series of lawsuits that Vawter’s oil and gas company has faced:
Questions have also arisen about some recent lawsuits against Monticello Investments, alleging the company failed to pay bonuses for oil and gas leases and inaccurately recorded leases at county offices.
Vawter declined to give an interview and said through a Land Office spokeswoman that he had no comment on the lawsuits because they were settled.
In September, the Stitt administration said appreciated that commissioners had hired someone for the position who has experience developing oil and gas plays “to ensure the agency delivers the strongest return for Oklahoma’s public schools.”
“The governor’s legal team did extensive outreach and research on Mr. Vawter’s business record and company, and they found no evidence of wrongdoing in past cases and also ensured there were no current conflicts of interest and no CLO leases in the portfolio of Monticello Investments LLC,” said Donelle Harder, then a spokesperson for the governor.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment about Vawter’s resignation prior to the publication of this story.
Currently, the news and events page of the Commissioners of the Land Office website contains only two news items: a Journal Record article about a Prague energy company purchasing land from the office, and a July 8, 2019, press release about Vawter’s selection as acting secretary.
“I am pleased with the Commission’s selection of Mr. Vawter as the acting secretary of the Land Office,” Stitt said in the release. “Vawter’s rich history in the energy sector and knowledge of Oklahoma lands will be a valuable asset to the CLO.”
The press release also provides background on the state agency.
“Before Oklahoma became a state, Congress set aside land in Oklahoma for the sole purpose of generating revenue to support public education,” the release stated. “Oklahoma’s constitution establishes the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office as the keeper of the ‘sacred trust.’”
The Commissioners of the Land Office’s next commission meeting is scheduled for April 9 at the State Capitol.