The War Veterans Commission hired an executive director Friday to head the state's Veterans Affairs Department.
After interviewing two candidates in executive session, the board voted 5-3, with one commissioner absent, to retain interim director John McReynolds for the job at an annual salary of $125,000. The second candidate was Danny Stewart, director of the state Accrediting Agency.
The Veterans Affairs Department administers state resources and home care for veterans and runs seven nursing centers. The agency has been under scrutiny amid reports of abuse and mistreatment at some of the centers. A former employee was convicted Monday of sexually assaulting patients at the Veterans Center in Norman.
“That is an identical issue that we had at Ardmore, employees taking advantage of residents that are there,” said Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, the governor's secretary of military and veterans affairs. “Those are ugly and bad news things and unfortunately that's what gets on the front of the paper as opposed to all the great service that we give them.”
Aragon also requested that staff give advance notice to herself and the governor when bad news is about to hit the press.
Gov. Mary Fallin replaced all but one board member in May and said she was working to overhaul the agency to improve quality of services and to protect veterans.
Fallin also called for an audit of the agency after interim director Martha Spear retired after 47 years of working for the agency, the last several years as executive director.
Commissioner Thomas Howell discussed his efforts to alter Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act to allow four or more commissioners to attend the same meetings and functions without violating state law.