OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Leaders from veterans organizations in Oklahoma say they are coming together to file a lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Organizers say the lawsuit relates to Stitt’s handling of appointments to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission.
Larry Van Schuyver served on the commission for nine years. In June, he was re-appointed as chairman of the Oklahoma Veterans Commission.
However, he was fired by Gov. Stitt just two days after the primary election.
Van Schuyver claims it was political retaliation after he publicly supported Joel Kintsel over Gov. Stitt in the governor’s race.
“He doesn’t want anyone that will fight him even when he’s doing the wrong thing,” said Van Schuyver. “He wants you to agree with him, which leads to a lot of scandal.”
When questioned about the firing, the Governor’s office said:
“Both Mr. Costilow and Mr. Van Schuyer were appointed by Governor Stitt and served at the pleasure of the governor. We wish them the best in their next endeavor.”Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Office
On Friday, the attorney for the veterans said they have a First Amendment Right to support their own candidates outside of their official state role, and Governor Stitt is in the wrong.
“Ironically, he has denied that right to the people that fought to make sure that we would have that right in this country,” said Mark Hammons, lawyer for Van Schuyver and Costilow.
In the lawsuit, two first amendment violations are mentioned.
The first is about being fired for their support of Joel Kintsel.
The second is about disagreeing with an alleged plan from Governor Stitt to privatize Veterans Homes. Those are facilities that provide long-term nursing care for former military members.
Van Schuyver and Costilow said selling off those facilities to private companies would “both reduce the quality of service and increase the cost of service” for veterans.
There is no copy of this alleged program, and Governor Stitt’s office denied that there is such a program.
“The Governor has never directed privatization and that argument is a smoke screen,” said Carly Atchinson, Governor Stitt’s Communications Director.
The lawsuit claims that Stitt’s Chief of Staff Bond Payne called Van Schuyver and Costilow in February and told them “it was very disrespectful for Kintsel” to not support the Governor. This was in reference to rumors that Kinstel would be running for governor against Stitt.
Kintsel filed to run for governor in April.
Van Schuyver and Costilow claim in the lawsuit that they were informed of their removal from the Veterans Commission on or about June 30, 2022.
Mark Hammons also announced that a second lawsuit will be filed next week in regards to Stitt not complying with state statute when finding Van Schuyver and Costilow’s replacements.
“If you want to sell out our most elderly, vulnerable veterans for profit, when you talk about privatizing, all you mean is making profit. And that’s what the governor does,” said Van Schuyver. “He wants to make profit off our veterans services.”
Van Schuyver and Costilow said they are not seeking any monetary award, and if there is one they would donate it to veteran’s causes.