“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” State agency leaders not qualified under Oklahoma law to hold their jobs

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OKLAHOMA - The head of a big state agency has been working a job he’s not eligible for under Oklahoma law.

Now, a bill that’s on the governor’s desk would lower the official qualifications.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs is getting a 7 percent cut to its budget, but we found its new director is making more money than the director before him – about $25,000 more – even though he doesn’t meet the experience and education requirements under state law.

“Unfortunately, the legislature, in order to get one of their buddies put in, decided to eliminate all those qualifications,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman.

Representative Inman’s talking about a bill that’s one step away from letting two agency directors qualify for the jobs they already have.

Joe Allbaugh doesn’t meet the requirements under Oklahoma law to head the Department of Corrections but, for now, he’s only the interm director.

Steve Buck, on the other hand, has been the new Office of Juvenile Affairs director since January.

“We’re very frustrated. We believe standards are there for a reason when it comes to public safety, not that the folks that are in charge now are bad people but, for years, we’ve had certain standards. You had to have educational qualifications. You had to have certain experience and background qualifications,” Inman said.

Right now, the law said the OJA director must have at least a master’s degree and three years’ work experience in corrections or juvenile justice or a bachelor’s degree and at least four years of that experience.

Buck has neither.

“I would characterize it as modifying the qualifications,” said Representative Gary Banz.

Banz voted 'yes' on the bill.

“They’re looking for the assets that individual can bring to the table on behalf of directing that agency, and I thought it was consistent with good public policy, and I voted for it,” Banz said.

But, there’s also some controversy about Buck’s paycheck.

The original job posting said it paid $100,000 - $125,000.

The previous director made around $125,000.

Buck makes $150,000.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’ve got state employees that work there that are struggling to do more with less, because they’re having to lay off folks or they not able to hire other people, then you turn around and give a brand new executive a huge pay increase over the last one,” Inman said.

It’s the juvenile affairs board that decides how much the director gets paid.

A spokesperson told NewsChannel 4 who the board hires and what his salary will be is done behind closed doors in executive session.

So far, Governor Fallin hasn’t signed that bill into law.

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