The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission voted Thursday to ratify the firing of six employees as it took a number of actions designed to fix problems created by previous Open Meeting Act violations.
The six employees were among 16 workers who were given the option of accepting voluntary buyout agreements or being fired when their jobs were eliminated July 9 by Commission Chairman Troy Wilson.
Ten of those former workers accepted voluntary buyout agreements at a cost to the state of about $97,000, commissioners were told. The six who were fired have initiated two separate legal actions against the commission.
Commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to ratify that Wilson was acting within his authority when he fired and granted voluntary buyout agreements to those 16 employees. Commissioner Denise Engle voted no.
It was one of several times during the meeting that Engle either voted no or abstained as the commission took several actions designed to expand or recognize extraordinary powers granted to the commission chairman.
One of those actions grants the chairman authority to control the commission’s agenda by giving him the power to choose whether to place items on the agenda that are requested by other commissioners.
“It seems that this vests an unbelievable amount of authority and control in the chair,” Engle protested. “There’s no opportunity here for a commissioner to get an item on the agenda even if it is requested, if the chair deems that it is not in his best interest.”
The commission voted 2-1 to give the chairman that authority for three months. This issue is scheduled to be revisited in November.
In other action, the commission voted to:
Construe the commission’s enabling statute as granting the chairman the authority to hire and fire all employees who serve administrative functions, while reserving to the commission as a whole the power to hire and fire employees who serve decision-making or policy-making functions.
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