OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond today requested that state Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd conduct an investigative audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) ‘amid swirling allegations’ involving the agency.
“I have had many conversations over the past few months with legislators, community leaders, private citizens and state employees who have expressed a wide array of concerns with the financial conduct of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority,” Drummond wrote in the March 15 letter to Byrd. “These concerns include but are not limited to improper transfers between the OTA and the Department of Transportation; improper contracting and purchasing practices; and inadequate internal financial controls.”
In December, a Cleveland County district judge ruled that the OTA had willfully violated Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act because of vague wording in its January and February meeting agendas.
Drummond said that violation is particularly troubling.
“Such a blatant disregard for openness and transparency suggests to me a willingness to engage in any manner of unlawful conduct,” he wrote.
The Attorney General’s letter to Auditor Byrd can be read here.
In a statement, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority gave an official statement saying,
“To be emphatically clear, the Turnpike Authority has the highest regard for openness and transparency and strives to conduct all business in accordance with laws, rules and regulations in every aspect of its duties and responsibilities to the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Secretary of Transportation and OTA Executive Director Tim Gatz also spoke with KFOR following the announcement.
“The OTA works hard to make sure we operate in an open and transparent manner,” said Gatz.
He also said the agency was no stranger to audits, performing its own independent financial audits every year. Gatz said the authority has never had a state audit.
Amy Cerato with Pike Off OTA said she has been fighting for answers from the OTA for more than a year after she found out her home sat in line with a proposed turnpike. That was when she created the grassroots campaign to halt what she called “unnecessary” proposed turnpikes.
Cerato said she was happy with Drummond’s decision to audit the agency.
“We’re finally going to have some answers about the financial transactions that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has undergone over the last few decades,” said Cerato. “How the OTA treats the citizens of Oklahoma is not okay. We need to add transparency and accountability to the law.”