Oklahoma lawmakers invite DHS commissioners to meeting to answer questions

Meeting at Oklahoma Capitol is set for Friday.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: October 18, 2011

Intense scrutiny

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has come under intense public scrutiny this year, largely because children in their care have been killed. Commissioners in particular have been criticized for refusing to address certain high-profile deaths during public meetings.

Commissioners responded in September by forming a special committee to look into deaths and recommend changes.

Volunteer commissioners

The nine commissioners who govern DHS are volunteers. They are not required to attend the legislative meeting planned by Morrissette and Sanders. Most are expected to stay away.

Commissioner Steven Dow, of Tulsa, said he plans to show up “and be responsive.”

Dow has been pushing fellow commissioners to take a more active role.

The news conference Monday was the first of two this week at the Capitol concerning DHS.

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and other House members have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce a strategy to improve the agency.

DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said Monday, “We look forward to working with Speaker Kris Steele and other members of the House who have spent time understanding the work we do and the needs of this agency.”

This is not a witch hunt. Not every DHS worker or commission member is bad. But when children continue to die and we continue to hear DHS say, ‘We are following policy and procedure,' enough is enough. One dead child is one too many. … This is unacceptable.”

Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher

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