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 $22 million in three agency revolving funds.
“We were very transparent about it,” Jones told board members, citing reports given to the governor and legislative officials during the budgeting process.
“The transparency is there. Could it be better? Absolutely.”
Burrage challenged Jones' claim of transparency.
“I do not agree with his saying that we have transparency as it relates to our revolving funds, and that is my personal opinion,” said Burrage, a former state auditor and chairman of the Corrections Department's budget committee.
Burrage said it took him “several requests” to obtain specific information from staff members regarding beginning balances, receipts and disbursements from the three funds.
The revolving funds have become a point of contention between Corrections Department staff members, Burrage, the governor and legislative leaders because the department had a pending legislative request for a $6.4 million supplemental appropriation at the same time it had $22 million in the three agency revolving accounts.
Jones withdrew the supplemental funding request earlier this month after Burrage discussed with him that the situation wouldn't look good.
The request for a supplemental appropriation came as the result of a board vote. Both Jones and Burrage told other board members Thursday they wanted to apologize if it was out-of-line for Jones to withdraw the request without another vote of the full board.
Tempers flared a short time later when board Chairwoman Linda Neal invited attorney Robert Lee Rainey, a former board member and former budget committee chairman, to appear before the board to discuss revolving accounts and transparency issues.
Rainey said he was “surprised and alarmed and disappointed” to read an article in The Oklahoman that quoted Burrage as expressing concerns about whether the department has been transparent enough in making the public aware of the large balances in the revolving funds.
“It violates every number of probably a dozen or more standard operating procedures that govern this board,” Rainey said.