16 Oklahoma House Employees Fired Without Notice
Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Reality is starting to set in for the House of Representative's employees who now don't have jobs. Sixteen people found out they were fired just a few days ago.
Sources said that includes the House Fiscal Director, media staffers, research staff, legislative assistants, a clerk, porter and others. The firings will save the House $864,000 a year.
"They said, effective immediately, you're terminated," said Sasha Bradley, former media specialist for the Oklahoma House.
Bradley said they wouldn't even let her log back onto her computer to retrieve her contacts and personal stuff. She said she was a loyal employee for five years and does not agree with how she was treated.
"I just don't feel like they're going about it right. They didn't offer us severance packages. They didn't give us any notice. It's Christmas time," said Bradley.
Speaker-elect Kris Steele said the legislature is an at will workplace. That means anyone can be fired without notice. Steele said he had to act quickly.
"To date, we haven't reduced our spending," said Steele. "It's incumbent upon this institution to lead by example and to bring our operating budget in line with the appropriation we received for this current fiscal year."
Steele said that he had to cut $1.5 million from the budget. He said the past administration was using carryover funds, called "Available Funds," instead of reducing expenditures, to make up for a 20 percent budget cut over the past two years. The fund will run out by the end of this fiscal year.
"I am a believer of making sure that we live within our means, that we stay within the budget, within the amount of money that has been appropriated," said Steele.
Representative Joe Dorman said this doesn't make sense. He remembers being told, back in May, that the House's finances were fine. That's when the Senate offered voluntary buyouts to save money. Twenty-five staffers took the $5,000 lump sum and saved the Senate $1.79 million.
"I think most of it was about mismanagement, looks like we were not told the budget was in as bad of shape at the House of Representatives as what we've come to find out," said Dorman.
Dorman is working to find out what the carryover money was spent on and the Oklahoma Impact Team is looking into that as well.
The OIT called former Speaker Chris Benge for comment on the budget situation. He did not return that call.