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ScissorTales: EMSA board needs to get its act together

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 26, 2013
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A state audit of the Emergency Medical Services Authority should grab the attention of EMSA's oversight board — and indeed of taxpayers who help fund the ambulance service.

The report this week confirmed what had been reported in media accounts — namely, that CEO Steve Williamson and others at EMSA have spent lavishly through the years on travel, accommodations and in other areas. The audit report labeled the spending not as illegal but as inappropriate.

The audit, which was requested by the EMSA board, looked at agency spending from January 2009 to June 2012. During that time, Williamson was reimbursed for more than $400,000 in expenses; more than half of those involved no board oversight. Among the reimbursements: $669 for room service and a $415 spa bill. What sort of work on behalf of EMSA merits such extravagance?

State Auditor Gary Jones said the board has “unintentionally fostered a culture of acquiescence in which officers and employees are permitted to establish inappropriate patterns of expenditure behavior and fail to disclose potential conflicts of interest, unbeknown to members of the board.”

Simply put: The board was asleep at the switch. This has to change.

No to secession

The creation of a States' Rights Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives prompted some to wonder if lawmakers were going to play footsie with the secessionist movement that's arisen largely via online petitions. Fortunately, that isn't the case. State Rep. Lewis Moore, the Arcadia Republican who chairs the committee, says secession won't be considered in any “way, shape or form.” Thank goodness for small favors. The secession movement is nonsense. The best way for conservatives to respond to the disappointing results of the 2012 election is to redouble their efforts to win the next one. In Oklahoma, that means advancing conservative policies that provide an effective counterpoint to President Barack Obama's anti-economic growth, anti-personal freedom agenda — not by proclaiming we don't want to be Americans anymore. If Republicans make the right policy moves, it will be Democrats talking about secession in 2017.

Ironic, don't you think?

This year Oklahoma legislators have filed 2,378 bills and 77 joint resolutions — 2,455 in all. That was up by about 200 compared with last year. According to the 2012 Session in Review and 2003 Session Highlights reports produced by state House fiscal staff, the number of bills and joint resolutions filed this year was the most since 2009. More notably, this year's total is the second-highest in the past 20 years. Filing legislation isn't the same thing as passing laws; only about 400 measures are typically signed by the governor each year. Still, it is ironic that a Legislature with Republican supermajorities has shown such a strong desire to pass new laws. One has to hope many of these bills are repealers, not new law. If not, given that big Democratic majorities in 1993 got by with just 1,475 measures, shouldn't small-government Republicans be able to do the same?

Hard to argue

William Marotta is being sued by the state of Kansas for child support. Marotta is in this predicament because he answered a Craigslist ad from a lesbian couple seeking a sperm donor. The couple didn't use a doctor in the insemination process, which would have freed Marotta from future liabilities. Since then, the women have gone their separate ways. One has sought public assistance for her and the child, prompting authorities to track down the biological father. The case raises numerous thorny legal issues, but it's hard to argue with Kansas state Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce's view that it “tells everybody don't do stupid things on Craigslist. It's kind of common sense. If you're going to create another life, even if it's a good intention, that's a heck of a responsibility, and it's one that precedes any sort of state action.”

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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