OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation into the Oklahoma Commission of Land Office (CLO), which recently saw the resignation of its head member amid allegations of impropriety.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater sent a letter to OSBI Director Ricky Adams on July 1, requesting the criminal investigation.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, a CLO member, called for Elliot Chambers to resign from his position as the Secretary of the Oklahoma Commission of Land Office in June, and sent a letter to Prater, asking him to investigate the CLO’s operations and finances.
“In her letter to me, she alleges misconduct within the administration of the agency related to mismanagement and misappropriation of taxpayer funds, conflicts of interest and improprer use of office by a state official,” Prater said in his letter to Adams. “I have reviewed the complaint and concluded that a criminal investigation should be conducted.”
Prater said in the letter he also asked Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd to have her agency forensically audit Commissioners of the Land Office.
“I ask that you work with the SAI to determine if any Oklahoma statutes have been violated,” Prater said to Adams in the letter.
The State Department of Education issued a news release in late June, saying Chambers fired Erin Morgan, an internal auditor who confronted him about potential conflicts of interest.
Chambers resigned during a CLO meeting on Thursday, June 30.
“I have an important announcement,” he said during the meeting. “When I accepted the governor’s offer to lead this agency, I committed to two years of service. As discussed with the governor on Tuesday, I provided notice of my resignation effective August 3rd, the two year anniversary of my time at agency.”
Prior to that meeting, Hofmeister called for a discussion about Chambers’ employment, as well as Morgan’s firing and subsequent settlement.
She said Morgan’s allegations, as well as allegations from another whistleblower, warrant an investigative audit of the CLO’s operations and finances.
“As I have said recently, the concerns raised by the former internal auditor at the Commissioners of the Land Office are alarming and need to be fully investigated,” she said. “Since that time, additional information has been presented that leaves me without confidence in the direction of the agency under Secretary Chambers. As a result, I believe it is in Oklahoma’s best interest that Secretary Chambers immediately resign and respectfully call on him to do so.”
Morgan questioned Chambers about his relationship with Victorum Capital, an investments firm doing business with the CLO. Commissioners voted 2-1 on Dec. 16, 2021, to give Victorum authority to manage direct investments for the CLO.
Hofmeister objected to the action. She later asked Chambers to request an attorney general opinion on whether the 2-1 vote is lawful, but Chambers refused. She then asked Attorney General John O’Connor to provide an opinion on the 2-1 approval.
O’Connor indicated he needed Hofmeister’s opinion on the matter before he would decide whether to provide an opinion. The Department of Education’s late-June news release described O’Connor’s response as “peculiar.”
Commissioners voted 3-1 during the June 30 meeting to renew the Victorum contract temporarily for 60 days, with Hofmeister voting in opposition.
“I do have concerns about Victorum,” she said after the meeting. “I have concerns and could not support having an extended contract with with that particular vendor. There’s simply questions that have not yet been answered related to conflict of interests and I would like to have those answers and be fully informed before making a decision on that matter.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt, who was at the June 30 meeting, thanked Chambers for his service following Chambers’ resignation.
“I love to bring people from the private sector to come serve and ask them to step away from private sector careers,” Stitt said. “I know public service is hard and and you’ve done a really, really good job, and I thank you… Hopefully there’ll be a lot more like you that come serve in my administration. And you’re always part of the team and welcome to the locker room. So, thank you. Thank you for your service.”