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3 state officials served subpoenas related to agency’s mismanagement of funds

OKLAHOMA CITY – Three state officials were served with subpoenas as a special committee reviews how the Department of Health is using taxpayer dollars.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health requested an emergency $30 million from the legislature. Agency officials said without the money, vital services could be shut down and the agency could fail to meet payroll in the next few weeks.

After an initial assessment, Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger said he discovered, since 2011, the department has been annually overspending on programs it can’t afford.

The mismanagement flew under the radar as money was moved around through several internal systems to keep operations afloat.

“This shows that there is a need for a different level of visibility into agencies that receive federal funds,” Doerflinger said.

After the allegations of mismanagement came to light, lawmakers formed a special investigation committee to look into the agency's use of taxpayer dollars.

On Thursday, the chair of the House Special Investigation Committee served three state officials with subpoenas to appear and produce evidence related to the case.

Subpoenas were served to:

  • Preston Doerflinger, director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and acting director of the Department of Health
  • Denise Northrup, acting director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services
  • Chris Benge, chief of staff for Gov. Mary Fallin.

“The mismanagement of more than $30 million in taxpayer dollars is incredibly frustrating for citizens and the members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives,” said Rep. Josh Cockroft. “It is inexcusable. Our constituents want answers, and we intend to find out how and why this happened. This is not a criminal investigation. Those are being handled by our law enforcement entities. But the Legislature has the sole authority and responsibility to appropriate taxpayer dollars, and we intend to make sure that is being done according to the law and for the intended purposes that those funds were appropriated.”

Governor Mary Fallin released a statement Thursday evening saying:

“Since my office has just received this subpoena, we need time to properly review and respond to it. We further need to determine that providing the relevant information requested does not interfere with the investigations by the attorney general and the state auditor and inspector.

“As I stated on October 30, 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 Oklahoma State Department of Health. Legislative leaders have been briefed about the situation.”