By ANDREW W. GRIFFIN
Oklahoma Watchdog, editor
Posted: August 14, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a bizarre press conference earlier this week where State Auditor Steve Burrage called Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) a “liar” for claiming that Burrage had told him the audit of the Broken Arrow Public Schools was imminent, more information has come out regarding claims being made by Burrage.
Burrage, who was appointed to the position of State Auditor two years ago by Gov. Brad Henry after the previous holder of that position, Jeff McMahan, was sent to prison, is looking to be officially elected to that position in the fall. His opponent is Gary Jones, former Oklahoma Republican Party chairman from Comanche County.
In a video sent to Oklahoma Watchdog, Burrage, a Democrat from Antlers, is shown speaking at an almost manic pace at a political event in Ada, Okla. where he makes some claims about the success of his investigative audits.
Burrage tells the Ada audience about his investigative audits and that he has gone after “hundreds of thousands of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse” in Skiatook Public Schools where he claims, “My audit got two felony convictions against the superintendent … and the school board president.”
But news accounts last month in the Tulsa World show that while ex-Superintendent Gary Johnson had been indicted on charges of embezzlement and bribery of a public official, he had not been convicted. As for the school board president Burrage notes in his speech, that person, Kenneth Cooper, had his indictment dismissed by a Tulsa County judge in late July.
As reported in the Tulsa World: “The indictments were returned four months after a state audit indicated that the school district paid Oklahoma City middleman Rick Enos – through his companies E and E Sales and Austin Security – $570,000 more than it would have paid for custodial supplies and security equipment had it bought them directly.”
Burrage then tells the Ada audience that he is “fixin’ to release Broken Arrow,” meaning that the audit of that school district was to be released. Recall that this video was filmed over four weeks ago.
This also goes back to Thursday’s press conference where Burrage reacted strongly to Reynolds’ criticisms of his office and the length of time it had taken to release the audit finding in the Broken Arrow Public Schools case. Burrage had allegedly told Reynolds since late 2009 that the release of the audit was imminent.
As Patrick B. McGuigan of Capitol Beat OK wrote, Burrage told Reynolds, “You tell lies. I’ll say right to Rep. Reynold’s face, that you lie.” He also said Reynolds had a bad attitude and was arrogant.
“I don’t have to put up with this,” Burrage said, before storming out.
When Oklahoma Watchdog spoke to Reynolds about the encounter, he said he had never seen anything quite like it and stands by his remarks at the press conference.
On Friday, a report in the Broken Arrow Ledger noted that Burrage will finally meet with the Broken Arrow Board of Education, along with an attorney, to discuss the results of the audit into the district’s finances. This will take place on Aug. 18 and is not open to the public. The audit findings will then be released on Sept. 2.
Keith Isbell, Executive Director of Communications for Broken Arrow Public Schools responded in an email to Oklahoma Watchdog that an attorney will be present in the auditor’s exit briefing because the new Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall wanted “an additional set of eyes to look at this situation.” So, the person who requested that Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold’s attorney be present at the exit briefing was Mendenhall.
Oklahoma Watchdog sent a series of questions, via email, to Burrage’s office late Friday. While we did not receive a response, we did inquire as to why the results of the Broken Arrow audit had been delayed for so many months. We also inquired about the protocol regarding the exit briefing and if it is typical to have an attorney sit in on the exit briefing as is planned in the Broken Arrow case. We will include that information if we receive a response.
Back in the Ada video, Burrage emphasizes that he is “not a politician” and that he has “brought trust and respect back to that office.”
Continuing, Burrage said: “I will not sacrifice my integrity, my judgement or knowledge for anybody.”
Concluded Burrage: “Please do not put a professional politician back in this office, we’ve had one for many years in the State of Oklahoma. Thank you very much.”
Copyright 2010 Oklahoma Watchdog