Changes Proposed, Questions Linger In House Investigation

Friday, February 3rd 2017, 10:01 pm
By: Grant Hermes

In its findings released on Thursday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives Rules Committee, investigating claims of sexual harassment and a legal settlement, called for a change in how its body’s leader handled large transactions.

Despite the payout being settled privately, the committee is calling for transparency going forward, asking new House Speaker Charles McCall to make a written procedure for authorizing any settlements at the House's expense over $15,000. Something not already on the books.

At the heart of the investigation is how $44,500 in state money was used to settle a wrongful termination claim made by Tulsa Republican Representative Dan Kirby's former aid.

2/2/17 Related Story: House Investigation Committee Recommends Expulsion Of Rep. Dan Kirby

The committee investigating the claim is made of six Republicans and three Democrats, although two Dems. refused to be party to the investigation after being asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

The deal made behind closed doors and a portion was marked under “housekeeping”, something the committee calls an unfortunate but unintended mistake -- that was later changed after News 9 uncovered the payment.

After weeks of testimony, the committee had a simple answer - the money couldn't come from anywhere else.

“The House only has one source of money to draw from. The public funds which are appropriated to it every year,” Committee Chairman Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) said on Thursday.

But there are still questions left unanswered, like why neither Former Speaker Jeff Hickman, who authorized the payment, nor Kirby's former aide were never invited to testify and how much money was paid to the private attorney used to settle the claim.

The latter was a question raised by House Democrats. Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) who said his caucus would be “taking the weekend” to examine the findings and may call for an independent investigation into the claims and payment. According to the committee findings, that could cost upwards of $300,000.