Why did Oklahoma Department of Corrections ask for money when it has a surplus?

by Randy Ellis Modified: April 23, 2013 at 10:52 pm •  Published: April 23, 2013
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Oklahoma Corrections Director Justin Jones is in trouble with the governor.

The governor is demanding an explanation as to why Jones' agency had been urgently requesting a $6.4 million supplemental appropriation at a time when it had about $22 million stashed in three agency revolving accounts.

Clark Jolley, chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, also is demanding an explanation.

Jones abruptly withdrew the agency's supplemental appropriation request April 15 after Steve Burrage, chairman of the Department of Corrections' budget committee, questioned why the agency was asking for more funds when it had such a large amount in the three accounts.

Now Gov. Mary Fallin, Burrage, and legislative leaders want to know why they weren't told earlier about the funds.

“Director Jones has repeatedly painted the picture of a Corrections Department in desperate need of immediate supplemental funding,” Fallin said in a terse letter received Monday by Burrage. “However, the discovery of an undisclosed $22 million held in revolving fund accounts and the subsequent retraction of the request for supplemental funding casts a shadow of uncertainty over the financial status of the agency. Besides making it unclear what financial resources the agency requires, it also begs the question about the agency's accounting practices and management of its finances.”

“It gives us great pause that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections requested supplemental funds from the Legislature despite sufficient monies in DOC revolving accounts to cover their budget deficit,” Fallin stated.

“With the agency's ever-changing financial landscape, executive and legislative officials are uncomfortable with the information being conveyed by DOC officials regarding the agency's financial status.”

Plans for money

Jones told The Oklahoman on Tuesday that his agency never tried to hide the revolving funds.

He said his agency had encumbered much of that money for needed projects like replacing cell doors and roofs before officials began asking questions.

When questions were raised, Jones said he postponed most of those projects, unencumbered millions of dollars that were not yet obligated by contracts, and withdrew his supplemental appropriations request.

The money now will be used to pay the costs of incarcerating an increased number of offenders and other purposes identified in the supplemental appropriations request that has now been withdrawn, he said.


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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