OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – During his weekly press conference, Governor Kevin Stitt said, if possible, he would fire the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
Joel Kintsel, the current executive director, has accused Governor Stitt of political retaliation for months, and believes that some members were not legally appointed.
Kintsel ran for Governor in the Republican Primary against Stitt and lost. In the months after, Stitt has replaced the entire Veterans Commission, the board that hires and fires the executive director.
The issue now is about $22 million in damages incurred from a construction project in Sallisaw.
Kintsel said multiple times, the state can recover the costs from the company at fault.
But the commissioners want more details and have called into question Kintsel’s leadership.
Veterans Commission meetings have been heated or have been cancelled recently because of the feuding between the two sides.
Last Friday, Kintsel directed staff to not cooperate with the commissioners because he said the group is illegitimate.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond agreed with Kintsel, saying in a statement last week, three of the members were appointed “unlawfully.”
The Governor finally weighed in on Friday.
“If they gave me the authority, I would fire the guy tomorrow,” said Stitt.
The authority is not with the Governor, but with his appointed members of the Veterans Commission.
After the failed meeting last week, members scheduled one for February 15.
Kintsel was a no-show.
“You’ve got a rogue agency director that’s not showing up to meetings, that’s not listening to the legislature,” said Stitt, frustrated with how the situation is playing out. “There’s nobody in charge.”
On the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners had the opportunity to take action on Kintsel’s employment as executive director.
Chairman Rob Allen tabled the conversation for another time.
Governor Stitt clarified in his press conference Friday that he did not direct the commissioners to fire Kintsel.
In a statement to KFOR, Kintsel addressed the comment by the Governor.
“My staff and I will continue to work hard for our veterans, and make decisions that best benefit them,” said Kintsel.