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Mary Fallin’s Office: Being vice chair of Trump transition team will not interfere with gubernatorial duties

OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Mary Fallin's office insists that her appointment to vice chair of the Trump presidential transition team will not interfere with her gubernatorial duties.

Many people have questioned Fallin's priorities after accepting a role in President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

"Mary Fallin should put Oklahoma first and the people of Oklahoma first," said Sarah Baker, executive director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. "She needs to be here taking care of Oklahoma before she takes care of the issues of Donald Trump."

Trump's team made the announcement a little more than a week after Fallin visited the president-elect in New York City, a venture that cost taxpayers at least $6,000.

Baker fears future trips could result in additional spending of taxpayer dollars, but she also worries about the state of the state, which is expecting another challenging legislative session dealing with budget difficulties and securing pay raises for teachers, among other things.

"This is the point in time where the governor should be working on legislative agendas for the 2017 session," Baker said. "And, if she's going to be focusing on Trump, who's going to be focusing on Oklahoma?"

State Republicans, like Chairwoman Pam Pollard, said Fallin will have no trouble juggling two responsibilities.

"It is another duty she is going to have, but she will stay in the state of Oklahoma," Pollard said. "She's focused on working on her budget, working on her legislative agenda, bringing a focus to our schools and our teachers and our students."

The governor's communications director released a statement Thursday, saying her role as vice chair will not interfere with her responsibility to Oklahoma.

The governor’s recent selection to serve as a vice chair on the Trump-Pence presidential transition committee will not interfere with her gubernatorial duties. The governor is continuing to work with her staff and legislative leaders on developing agenda items for the upcoming legislative session and is working on a proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

The Trump transition team staff says most of the vice chair’s duties can be accomplished predominantly with conference calls. Her duties as vice chair are to provide the transition committee staff with policy ideas and on the best and brightest who can serve in the new administration. Transition committee staff stated the governor’s selection as vice chair does not affect her being considered for a post in the Trump administration.

As the governor said previously, she is honored to serve on the transition committee and is looking forward to working with the distinguished leaders on the panel. This is a tremendous opportunity for Oklahomans' values and concerns to be heard during this important process of forming a new administration and its policies. - Communications Director Michael McNutt

Fallin's office could not immediately provide details of the governor's transition team duties.

The vice chair job is temporary, and past members of transition teams tell NewsChannel 4 Fallin's duties will likely include vetting, screening and recommending applicants for some 4,000 appointed positions.

She also will likely work with members of the outgoing Obama administration to ensure a smooth transition, educating incoming staff about their responsibilities.

Fallin would keep her job as governor, unless she is appointed to a cabinet position, in which case Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb would assume her state duties.

Trump has not offered Fallin a position in his cabinet, though she is rumored to be the leading candidate for Secretary of the Interior.

Additional trips to New York City are a possibility, but Pollard said most of Fallin's work can likely be done from the Sooner State.

"In the age of multimedia, there's a lot she can do by telephone and internet and webinars and things like that," she said, dismissing the idea the governor may be distracted by her new title. "Gov. Fallin has a good team in place here in Oklahoma [to help]."