Oklahoma Corrections director clashes with board member over financial transparency

Oklahoma Corrections Department Director Justin Jones and board member Steve Burrage publicly clashed Thursday over whether staff members have been open with board members and state officials in discussing about $22 million contained in three agency revolving funds.
by Randy Ellis Modified: April 25, 2013 at 10:39 pm •  Published: April 26, 2013
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Burrage wanted Rainey to back up his comment.

“Would you enumerate about that comment on what I violated or what anybody violated?” Burrage said. “You said that we violated at least 12 operating procedures of this board. ... I was just trying to bring forth what I feel is adequate disclosure of our finances.”

Rainey read from a statement of board operating policies and procedures that said “inquiries regarding DOC's operations, actions or policies received by board members from the public, employees or offenders will be referred to the director or designee for response.”

If the inquiries are of a nature that it would be inappropriate for the director to respond, they should be referred to the board chair, he quoted the policy as saying.

Burrage said he was responding to a request from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“If I'm wrong in doing that, then I apologize,” he said. “But if I'm asked again, I will respond again.”

Neal cut off further discussions, citing the lateness of the hour.

“As a board, we all have got to go back to these policies and procedures and tighten that back up,” Neal said.

Burrage said later that he doesn't believe he violated any statute and believes legislators, the governor and the public have the right to be fully informed about Corrections Department finances.

An agenda item calling for a budget update was postponed by the board.

Jones and Burrage said the agency is working to revise the way it reports financial information to be more transparent.

Legislature blamed

Rainey read from a 2008 outside report that blamed the Legislature for creating a system that required the agency to juggle funds in revolving accounts.

The Legislature “established a practice of intentionally providing only partial-year funding for the department using a supplemental appropriation late in the fiscal year to supply the rest,” the report said.

“Without a realistic approved spending plan, the Legislature cannot hold the department accountable for complying with its budget allocation and priorities. Instead, DOC must juggle funding in available accounts to address its needs. The present system of ongoing supplemental funding is not effective public policy.”

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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