Behind The Money With State Auditor Cindy Byrd

The love of family shapes the life of one of Oklahoma’s most influential state leaders. You’ve probably heard of her, but you might not know exactly what she does. 

Wednesday, December 14th 2022, 10:33 pm

By: News 9


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The love of family shapes the life of one of Oklahoma’s most influential state leaders. 

You’ve probably heard of her, but you might not know exactly what she does. 

State auditor Cindy Byrd spends most of her weekdays away from her family. They live in Colgate. 

She listens to Christian radio and rock music on her drive to her office in the state Capitol every week.

During the week, she and her husband Steve stay in touch by their common love of elephants. 

“We watch baby elephant videos all day every day, I mean, we send them back and forth,” Steve Byrd, Cindy’s husband, said. 

Cindy spends her weeks away from home in Oklahoma because she said she’s following her dream.

"You can't drive up to this building and not look at the grandeur, and think about the [people who were here before, the people who will be here afterwards, what your part is, and how you're supposed to maintain the integrity, and keep things going,” she said. 

She said she’s doing what she feels called to do. 

"That's what has really kept me in this office for 26 years this January, was the fact that there is purpose in this office. We are serving the taxpayers. We're the one office out here looking out for the taxpayers,” Byrd said. 

A call…for something bigger. 

"God gives you the gifts you need, and you grow into positions, and…2018, it was really the fall of 2017 whenever the state auditor at that time approached me and said, you know, you should think about running for this office."

Even when it's hard. 

"I'm very thankful that I was a brand new politician, that I didn't understand all the forces at play, that we never hesitated at all in what we were reporting,” Byrd said. 

Cindy Byrd has a hand in some of the biggest news stories in recent years. A threat to her career came after publishing damning reports of financial crimes at Epic Charter Schools. 

"I never dreamed there would be a time that someone would question the validity of that report or try to act like it was politics. It was a very hard time. it wasn't just me under attack, it was this office that i believe in. the entire office was under attack.” 

A dark money campaign – fueled by EPIC's founders who are now facing charges – sought to destroy her in her bid for re-election this year. 

“If you read the affidavit you could see exactly what we were up against and the forces that were behind discrediting that audit, which I believe was to cover up the situation that I believe was fraud. It was a very difficult time, and I think the only thing that brought me through that was my faith, and the extraordinary team of people that I am surrounded by,” Byrd said. 

Byrd won her primary re-election on June 28 and continued in her role unopposed on the midterm ballot. 

After the campaign, she said she’s back to business as usual. 

“Tax payers put me here to do audits. So any audit that I am requested to do, regardless of who asked for it, regardless of what their intentions might be, numbers aren't gonna lie, and the public has a right to know where every single penny goes,” Byrd said. 

Numbers that she said keep her neutral. 

"Even if someone meant something to be political, politics aren't going to get past the door here,” she said. 

"We try to just stay focused on our job and get our information to the taxpayer. We take a few hits. We make a few people mad with the results of our audits but…numbers don't lie,” she said. 

These audits are from the county level all the way up to the state. 

In a given year, 350-400 audit reports leave her office. 

"We have seen an explosion in reported fraud. The auditor's office is not immune to the staffing issues that every other industry in the state is facing,” she said. 

The most time consuming audits are the investigative ones. 

In 2018, they had a backlog of 15. Today, it's more than 50. 

"People don't realize that an investigative audit entails going out and talking to every individual, looking at every piece of evidence, whatever we put out has to be fair, unbiased, and just the facts. Because, we are putting out reports that could harm an individual or a business if we don't have our facts straight. and those can't be turned out overnight,” Byrd said. 

Byrd said her communication with the public is a priority. 

"There's so much misinformation out here, and I see things on social media that cause a lot of divisiveness in the state. The one office people should be able to trust is the auditor's office," she said. 

 And when the weight of the state is on her shoulders…she remembers who she is, by spending time with family, and the elephant families she admires so much. 

She said she likes to visit Shondra, a mother elephant, at the Oklahoma City Zoo. 

“I think it's really neat that Shondra is the matriarch, and she’s the aunt, and she doesn’t have children, because I don’t have children. In my family I kind of am the matriarch and herd my nieces and nephews around and help them. Ya, even elephants can figure out a way to still be a mama,” she said. 

The state auditor's office plans to request an increase in their budget next spring. 

In part, they’re asking for six more people to conduct forensic audits of Oklahoma’s agencies.

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