OSBI employees' relationships with support organizations criticized by state auditor

Some Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation employees maintained questionable relationships with two nonprofit support organizations — one of which spent $9,999 to help send 11 members on a cruise, according to a report released Thursday by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector.
by Randy Ellis Published: March 29, 2013
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Some Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation employees maintained questionable relationships with two nonprofit support organizations — one of which spent $9,999 to help send 11 members on a cruise, according to a report released Thursday by Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.

Last September's four-day Carnival cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, was paid mostly by a nonprofit group called the OSBI Employee Association, the special audit report said.

Tommy Johnson, the OSBI's top white-collar crime investigator, serves as president of the OSBI Employee Association and is listed in billing records as being among those who were to go on the cruise. Johnson did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

OSBI Director Stan Florence said he did not go.

“I've never been on one in my life,” he said.

Florence said he believes the cruise was a pleasure trip.

Auditors said the cruise could have tax consequences.

“There may have been some personal benefits accrue to association members that could require reporting to appropriate federal and state taxing authorities,” the special audit report said of expenditures by the OSBI Employee Association.

Auditors said they also “determined that state resources were being used on behalf of the nonprofit organization.”

The other support group, Friends of OSBI, Inc., refused to let state auditors examine its financial records without a confidentiality agreement, arguing its records were private, auditors said.

“We do not agree with this position,” auditors said.

Auditors said their inquiry revealed that two OSBI employees served as officers of Friends of OSBI and that state time and the OSBI computer network were used to raise funds — a possible violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

“An OSBI official solicited, collected, and deposited funds into an unofficial and unauthorized bank account belonging to a private nonprofit organization,” the report said.

Jessica Brown, the OSBI's public information officer, served as president of Friends of OSBI and raised funds for the nonprofit, while Tammy Blakley, an OSBI accountant, served as treasurer, the report said.

Auditors said Brown told them her job description called for her to spend 10 percent of her time on Friends of OSBI business. Brown told auditors she solicited donated items from local merchants and OSBI employees and then auctioned the items off to employees on the agency's intranet “auction” page. Proceeds went to support the organization.

Brown referred a call from The Oklahoman to Friends of OSBI attorney Debbie Self, who did not return a telephone call.

Florence, the OSBI director, told The Oklahoman he requested the special audit last March after reading a newspaper report on a state audit of the state Education Department.

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau 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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