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Oklahoma health commissioner resigns amid department facing financial crisis

OKLAHOMA CITY - The state Board of Health called an emergency meeting Monday night to accept the resignation letters of both Health Commissioner Terry Cline and Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain.

The board also announced the appointment of Preston Doerflinger as interim commissioner effective Tuesday.

The resignations come as the Oklahoma State Department of Health is currently in financial crisis.

The department is facing a $10 million budget shortfall, and 1,500 employees have been furloughed.

Last month, an independent audit was called for.

Recently, officials have called for 250 jobs to be cut in 2018. That constitutes 12 percent of the current staff.

Board Chair Mary Burger said the health department takes the decisions very seriously and urged employees to stay strong with the financial crisis shadow looming.

Burger said the board "is prepared to take all steps necessary to ensure that OSDH continues its important work in the area of public health.”

Governor Mary Fallin also released a statement on the change of leadership Monday night:

“I applaud the Board of Health in taking swift action and making necessary changes to stabilize the financial situation. The board’s appointment of Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger is a step toward putting the agency back on firm financial ground. I know Secretary Doerflinger will lead the state Health Department with stable and capable leadership, as he did the Department of Human Services in 2012 when he served as interim director. Secretary Doerflinger has served on my Cabinet for seven years, and I have complete confidence in his ability to fix the financial problems that have occurred at this agency.

My office has enlisted the help of the fiscal staff of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the state attorney general’s office and the office of the state auditor and inspector to look into the matter to immediately investigate and bring forth clarity to the situation and offer solutions to ensure proper fiscal management of the state Health Department. Legislative leaders have been briefed about the situation.

It’s critical to restore confidence in the operations and delivery of public health services. We will work with every resource available to get the agency back on firm financial ground."