Glenn Coffee's Appointment As Oklahoma's Secretary Of State Raises Legal Questions

Tuesday, January 4th 2011, 10:38 am
By: News 9

Alex Cameron, Oklahoma Impact Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Governor-elect Mary Fallin announced she selected Glenn Coffee to serve as Oklahoma's secretary of state. The Oklahoma Impact Team learned the incoming governor will have to take some extra steps to make paying Coffee's salary legal.

Coffee is the outgoing Senate leader. Under state law, a lawmaker cannot take a state job within two years of leaving office if the salary for that job is paid with dollars appropriated by the legislature.

OIT checked with Governor-elect Fallin's staffers. They say Coffee's salary will be paid with non-appropriated funds, meaning his hiring is completely lawful.

More than 90 percent of the secretary of state's budget is non-appropriated funding, such as fees. Even the current secretary of state, Susan Savage -- who was not a lawmaker -- said her salary has been paid largely with non-appropriated funds.

Governor-elect Fallin's office released this statement:

"Former legislators may take paid positions with the state if they are paid with funds not appropriated from the Oklahoma Legislature. More than 93 percent of the secretary of state's budget comes from non-appropriated funds (such as fees), according to the Office of State Finance. As previous administrations have done, we are following the letter of the law and precedent established in legal opinions from the attorney general's office."

Coffee was first elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 1998 and served in a variety of leadership posts. Governor-elect Fallin said Coffee would be instrumental in helping her advance her legislative agenda.

"My focus as governor of Oklahoma will be to implement pro-growth, fiscally responsible and conservative policies to move this state forward," said Fallin. "Glenn Coffee's leadership and experience as a legislator will go a long way in helping our team be successful and I'm proud to have him serve in my cabinet."

"Governor-elect Fallin has told me that she wants to use every tool available to create more jobs and opportunities for working Oklahomans. I know she'll work with state lawmakers to pursue conservative, pro-business policies to move our state forward, and I'm honored to serve in her cabinet," Coffee said.

Governor-elect Fallin will be sworn into office Monday, Jan. 10. She said Coffee will represent her during budget negotiations in addition to performing the statutory duties of the office. Coffee will also serve as a liaison to Oklahoma's American Indian tribes.