(Update: On Monday, Oct. 5, Michael Rogers resigned as Oklahoma secretary of state and transitioned to a subsequent role of senior policy advisor to Gov. Kevin Stitt. The story below remains in its original form from August.)
Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers is down to one hat.
Rogers, who has also been serving as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education since January 2019, sent the governor an email Wednesday morning declaring his resignation from that cabinet position and saying he would cease to be Stitt’s “chief policy negotiator.”
“As I audit my time and priorities, it has become clear I should no longer juggle running an agency, negotiating your policy priorities, and serving as the secretary of education,” Rogers wrote at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday. “I am so proud of the things I have accomplished in all three of these roles. Therefore, effective immediately, I am stepping down as secretary of education. I know you will find a great successor who will continue to carry out the education policy ideas you desire. I am also stepping down from the extra duty as your chief policy negotiator.”
NonDoc obtained Rogers’ resignation email (available in full below) via open records request late this evening after the Stitt administration had announced a new chief of staff and a new chief policy advisor. A request that the Stitt administration provide a copy of Rogers’ letter went unanswered earlier Thursday.
Legislator: Rogers ‘irreplaceable to the Stitt administration’
A member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2015 through 2018, Rogers had served as Stitt’s best connection to a Republican-controlled Legislature that initially welcomed his bold leadership but became exasperated with his various confrontations in 2020.
The Legislature overrode numerous Stitt vetoes during this year’s session, including his attempt to stop a state budget he said needed to be cut further to prepare for future potential shortfalls. Legislative leaders have also sued Stitt over his signing of new gaming compacts for casino gambling.
Reached Thursday evening, Rep. John Pfeiffer (R-Orlando) said Rogers is well liked by legislators.
“Secretary Rogers is irreplaceable to the Stitt administration as a political advisor,” Pfeiffer said. “He is the one person who does everything without any selfish motives and has served the governor and the Legislature with honor. I look forward to working with him on future legislation to help the Secretary of State’s Office be even more successful.”
Pfeiffer said he remains hopeful that the governor and legislative leaders will have a better relationship when the 2021 legislative session begins in February.
“I thought that at the end of the last legislative session that all branches of government had a better understanding of one another’s checks and balances, and I hope that continues,” Pfeiffer said. “We will just have to wait and see.”
A member of the Oral Roberts University baseball team’s Hall of Fame, Rogers focused his legislative tenure on the education sector.
Rogers’ full email to Gov. Stitt appears below verbatim, and it previews a government modernization project involving public access to state agency rules. That project is scheduled to be completed in November.
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Email from Secretary of State Michael Rogers to Gov. Kevin Stitt
As I audit my time and priorities, it has become clear I should no longer juggle running an agency, negotiating your policy priorities, and serving as the Secretary of Education. I am so proud of the things I have accomplished in all three of these roles. Therefore, effective immediately, I am stepping down as Secretary of Education. I know you will find a great successor who will continue to carry out the education policy ideas you desire. I am also stepping down from the extra duty as your chief policy negotiator. I am excited for the opportunity to focus solely on the role of Secretary of State and build off of the success my team and I have already achieved. I appreciate you appointing me as the 35th Secretary of State. I will do my best to continue fulfilling my duty under Section 1 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution for a four-year term running concurrently with your term as Governor. I am humbled every day to get to serve the great state of Oklahoma.
I have included a list of some of the accomplishments already improving upon the Office of the Secretary of State. These were only possible by working with the legislature and my great team within the Office of the Secretary of State. Here are a few examples.
• Transitioned key positions in the agency to the unclassified service. This change allows the agency more flexibility to adjust personnel to fulfill its duties and provides the agency with the ability to retain talented staff members.
• Requested legislation to change the statute distribution process by eliminating the publishing of books, and moving to an electronic published format. This change is expected to save taxpayers approximately $1.7M over the next 5 years.
• The Administrative Rules Portal is an innovative, web-based filing and publishing system that shifts the rulemaking culture by embracing a citizen-centric focus and empower citizens by making state government more transparent, accessible, accountable, and efficient. Oklahoma will set the standard for citizen involvement in state government by providing each citizen the ability to collaborate with state agencies in crafting the best version of laws that impact their personal lives and businesses. The project is scheduled to be completed by November 2020.
• Legislative changes allow the agency to make substantial changes to the initiative petition process. Currently, the agency must hand count all signatures and we have no way of verifying the signatures against voter registrations. The new system will allow for scanning of petition pages, which will automatically count and verify signatures against voter registration records. The new process will be used for any initiative petition filed with our agency after November 1, 2020.
• The monthly online filing transaction rate has increased from 57% to 81% by the end of July 2020. Online filings are much quicker to process internally because there are very few touchpoints. This allows online filings to be processed much quicker and reduces costs associated with printing, mailing, and staff resources.
• Identified and implemented a new service for customers who still mail or drop off their business filing documents. The new service allows customers to request their completed filings be returned to them electronically. They no longer have to wait to receive documents in the mail, and they are processed and returned much faster. Currently, 16% of all mailed or dropped off documents are returned to customers electronically.
• Implemented a web-based filing to allow current Oklahoma Notaries to become Remote Notaries. This allows for remote notarization of documents which has been helpful to the general public trying to get documents notarized during the Covid19 pandemic.
• Moved 36% of our workforce to full-time remote work, with the capability of reaching 76% remote workforce in emergency situations. Previously, we had less than 16% capable of working remotely. Increasing our remote workforce positions the agency to have a smaller footprint if the need arises.
As always, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of Oklahoma and look forward to making Oklahoma a better place. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me!
Oklahoma Secretary of State