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 www.yourmoney.ok.gov 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.
Reynolds, however, said some of the names of elected officials are unusual and many of the names on the unclaimed property list give addresses that match the hometowns of the elected officials, so he believes they are likely the same.
The Oklahoman spot-checked some of the matches Reynolds came up with and found that some of the elected officials did, indeed, appear to be the owners of unclaimed property, while others apparently were not.
Lt. Gov. Lamb's name was on the list accompanied by an Edmond address. Lamb's chief of staff, Keith Beall, checked with Lamb's wife and said he was able to confirm that the Todd Lamb listed on the unclaimed property list was, indeed, the lieutenant governor. The Edmond address was one of their previous home addresses, Beall said.
“Thank you for bringing it to our attention,” Beall said. “We'll submit the form and get repaid.”
Lamb won't get rich off the claim. The treasurer's office lists the value of the property as “under $100.”
The name of state Rep. R.C. Pruett, D-Antlers, is also on the list — twice. Pruett said he's convinced at least one of the names on the list is him because the address listed is that of his grocery store. That property is identified as a $90 tax rebate.
“That gives me a good feeling,” Pruett chuckled. “The state owes me something instead of me owing the state something. That's almost as good as a tax cut.”
Pruett might feel even better if the other R.C. Pruett on the list turns out to be him, because the value of the property is listed as “over $100.” No address is listed for that property owner.
State Auditor Gary Jones said his name popped up twice on unclaimed property lists within the last couple of years, prompting him to file claims. Jones said once he got back about $1,000 and the other time between $3,000 and $4,000.
Jones said he has lived in the same house 34 years, but some stock-related checks apparently were sent back as undeliverable after the post office began using a street address rather than post office box address for his mail to conform with a new 911 emergency locator system.
State Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, was not as lucky as the others.
“That's not me,” Rep. Thomsen said, explaining that the Todd Thomsen on the unclaimed property list had a Midwest City address with which he has never been associated.
Reynolds said he believes the treasurer has an incentive to make it difficult for Oklahomans to get their lost property back. He noted that state law gives the treasurer the authority to periodically declare that a portion of unclaimed property is unlikely to ever be reclaimed and to make those funds available to the Legislature for appropriation.
This year, $45 million in unclaimed property funds were made available for appropriation, Allen said.
Allen said the actual owners of unclaimed property will always retain their property rights.