Former Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas has declined the new Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust CEO position.
TSET announced that Douglas had accepted a new position of chief executive officer and would be paid an annual salary of $250,000 on June 14. TSET already has an executive director who is paid $120,000 annually.
Douglas released a statement Wednesday:
"After much contemplation and consultation with my family and friends, I have decided the right decision for me and TSET is to allow them to continue their search for a new CEO.?
"I appreciate the support of the TSET board and many people in the public and private sectors. The words of encouragement were deeply appreciated, especially when the matter of hiring a CEO at TSET was unfortunately politicized. I stood ready and willing to fulfill the responsibilities of the job, but unfortunately, the TSET board had been informed that others will not permit this to occur.
"One learns very quickly in these types of matters how priceless family and true friends are.
"Let me note, I did not pursue this position. An executive search firm engaged to oversee the hiring process contacted me. I was pleased with my executive position in the private sector. After deliberating and consulting with several people, I decided to proceed through the interview process to better understand the opportunity. This decision was influenced by my inherent respect for the mission of TSET and the important work it does to help Oklahomans trapped in the addiction of smoking. Our state has serious health issues and this position was one way I could use my management and finance experience and energy to help our state and its citizens. The process used by TSET was vetted through the Attorney General's office and was determined to be legally correct.
While I am disappointed it didn't work out as anticipated, I am at peace with my decision and look forward with high anticipation to restarting the opportunities presented in the private sector for me."
Gov. Mary Fallin scolded the trust and said TSET's failure to file the necessary paperwork for the position "violates the spirit of an executive order" she filed in February 2015.
The TSET board of directors also released a statement Wednesday:
"We have the utmost admiration for Patrice Douglas. She comported herself professionally and thoughtfully throughout the process, including the difficult last few days. While we are very disappointed, we respect and honor the decision by Patrice. She was exceptionally qualified for the position with an impressive record of achievement in the both the public and private sectors. Her vast knowledge of investment, finance, law and executive management made her eminently qualified to lead TSET, particularly in light of the expected retirement of our longtime executive director in the next year. Our search firm, which was recommended and approved by OMES, strongly recommended we consider Patrice. We did and she quickly rose to the top of the list, which included people from both the public and private sectors.
"It should be noted, we carefully sought out the counsel of the Attorney General’s office to ensure our executive search was in compliance with the constitutional language establishing TSET. At this time, we are going to pause and reassess. Our board believes it is prudent to continue focusing on the mission of TSET and work with organizations around the state to build a better and healthier Oklahoma."
TSET is on the state payroll system, and in order to put on the payroll, TSET must submit certain paperwork to Health and Human Services Secretary Terry Cline.
At Fallin's urging, Cline has promised she will not approve that paperwork, as long as it shows a salary of $250,000.