Man Prepared To Camp Outside State Employment Agency In Protest Helped By Agency Director

Thursday, May 28th 2020, 10:10 pm
By: Barry Mangold


Jonathan Sammons woke up in Oklahoma City Thursday prepared to camp outside the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) for weeks.

The Ft. Smith, Arkansas resident said he filed for unemployment in both Arkansas and Oklahoma, which put his benefits requests in limbo.

For weeks, Sammons said he’s attempted to cancel his Oklahoma claim so he can advance the one in Arkansas.

“I don't even need a check from (OESC), I just need to cancel my claim,” he said.

Sammons was set up outside the Will Rogers state office building, which houses OESC with his car and lawn chair. He was prepared for the long haul, he said.

“I’m unemployed, I have time on my hands,” Sammons said. “And I thought, something’s wrong here, this is not normal. It’s not normal to wait six, seven, eight weeks to hear back.”

The OESC, which is the agency handling unemployment and pandemic assistance in Oklahoma, has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of claims since March. It has paid out more than $1 billion in aid during the COVID-19 pandemic and oil industry crises, according to OESC.

There’s also been a shake-up in leadership. Robin Roberson resigned as the Interim Executive Director of the agency last week, and Shelley Zumwalt was named as her replacement on Wednesday.

Around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Zumwalt drove into the building parking lot and met with Sammons to discuss the issue.

Shelley Zumwalt with Jonathan Sammons

“I’m sorry he had to go through the trouble of camping out in front of a building,” she told News 9 afterward.