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Oklahoma elected officials among unclaimed property owners

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is among Oklahomans the state treasurer's office has been unable to find to reunite with their lost funds. So are many state legislators, said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.
by Randy Ellis Published: May 12, 2013

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is among Oklahomans the state treasurer's office has been unable to find to reunite with their lost funds.

So are numerous state legislators, said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

Reynolds said he questions the effort Treasurer Ken Miller has put into trying to reunite Oklahomans with their lost property since Miller's employees have been unable to track down elected officials who work in the same Capitol building.

“He doesn't want to return it. He's conflicted,” Reynolds said.

Tim Allen, spokesman for Treasurer Miller, disputed Reynolds' assertions.

“The responsibility is on people on the list to contact us and not on us to go out and find them,” Allen said.

Allen said the treasurer engages in diverse efforts to reunite people with lost property.

The office publishes the names of the most recent additions to the unclaimed property owners list in The Oklahoman and other state newspapers, he said.

The treasurer also operates unclaimed property booths at the state's two major state fairs and maintains a searchable database at where members of the public can look up their names or the names of others to see if the state owes them money, he said.

The challenge is the overwhelming amount of unclaimed property in the state, he said.

“We are holding $350 million for 600,000 Oklahomans,” he said. “That's money for one-in-seven Oklahomans.”

He said the treasurer's office was successful in reuniting 14,000 people with $18.5 million during Miller's first full fiscal year.

“We don't treat those in elective office any differently than the rest of our citizens,” he said. “For instance, former Congressman Dan Boren recently completed a claim, which he initiated after his name was published in the newspaper.”

Unclaimed property comes from a great variety of sources including inactive bank accounts, security deposits at utility companies, uncashed paychecks, contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes, royalty payments to mineral owners who couldn't be located, rebates, dividend checks and stocks and bonds.

The law makes it the treasurer's responsibility to try to reunite property with owners or their heirs.

Reynolds said he is unconvinced of Miller's diligence.

Reynolds said he compared the names of Oklahoma legislators and statewide elected officials with names on the list of unclaimed property owners and came up with nearly 40 matches.

Reynolds sent a mass email to those elected officials Thursday along with the question: “If you had money in the unclaimed property fund, would you think the state treasurer is doing a good job of returning it to you or any other citizen if he can't locate you?”

Many people can share the same name, so just because the name of an unclaimed property owner matches the name of an elected official is no guarantee it is the elected official.

For example, Allen said there are 27 Ken Millers on the unclaimed property list and none of them are the state treasurer.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative 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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