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Outdated software plagues Oklahoma Ethics Commission

Some candidate and lobbyist financial reports can't be located on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission's website because of software glitches, the agency's executive director says. He will be asking lawmakers to provide funds to buy new software.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: August 4, 2013 at 11:00 am •  Published: August 3, 2013
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Financial information dealing with statewide and elected campaigns as well as lobbyist spending activities posted on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission's website isn't accurate because of glitches in the agency's outdated software.

“We've not been able to locate reports from lobbyists we know have filed, but we can find it under the lobbyist principal (who hires the lobbyist),” said Lee Slater, who took over as the agency's executive director in February. “We've been frustrated trying to track that problem down.”

Slater said he will be asking lawmakers for funds next year to buy a new software system, preferably the same kind used by federal election officials. No cost estimate is available.

Until then, candidates, lobbyists and the public will have to put up with a system in which information posted by some candidates and lobbyists randomly doesn't show up, Slater said. The software problem is causing irritation for candidates and their consultants as well as lobbyists, and resulting in inaccurate totals of lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and others.

“It's the worst I've ever seen — it's not user-friendly,” Slater said. “It's very difficult for everybody to figure out how it got that way.”

Even if his agency would get funding next year, there wouldn't be time to install it before the end of the 2014 campaign season, Slater said. It also would be unfair to change a reporting system especially to candidates in the waning months of next year's campaign, he said.

Slater said his staff and OK.gov, which manages the state's official website, are working on the problems.

“We certainly work with the vendor to try to keep them informed of all the problems that are reported to us,” he said.

Mark Mitchell, general manager of OK.gov, did not return several phone calls last week to comment for this story.

Slater said he has no reason to believe the reports that appear on the agency's website — www.ok.gov/oec/ — are inaccurate. It's just that some reports aren't showing up.

“It's not that the information is incorrect, it's being able to locate it and identify it,” he said.

Slater said the Ethics Commission's software, which is about seven years old, is causing a variety of problems.

• A search of gifts given by lobbyists during the last six months of 2012 shows no results for Oklahoma State University, even though it provided $100 discounts on football season tickets to 33 lawmakers. OSU provided paperwork showing it submitted its report three days before the Jan. 20 deadline. OSU is not listed as providing $3,300 in discounts on the Ethics Commission's main report and the gifts do not show up during individual searches of lawmakers.

• Information on state Attorney General Scott Pruitt's 2014 campaign didn't show up on the Ethics Commission's website until Friday, even though a campaign spokesman said the reports were filed Thursday afternoon.

“Everybody works on a deadline to get things filed and you certainly don't like a story saying that it wasn't available,” said Pruitt's campaign consultant, Pat McFerron with CMA Strategies.

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It's the worst I've ever seen — it's not user-friendly. It's very difficult for everybody to figure out how it got that way.”

Lee Slater,
Oklahoma Ethics Commission executive director, speaking about the agency's reporting software

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