The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission contacted the Oklahoma Highway Patrol this week to report several threats against its staff and director, according to an agency spokesperson.
The concern comes as the Supreme Court of Oklahoma considers whether to compel OESC to restart certain federal benefit programs that were discontinued in June following an order from Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Attorneys behind a lawsuit seeking to reinstate the programs and the state argued before a referee at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. There is no timeline on when they will deliver a ruling or take another action.
“I hope we get a ruling quickly. What’s going on right now is stressful,” said Shelley Zumwalt, Executive Director of OESC. “Right now, what’s going on is we’re getting communications, we’re getting threats to the agency.”
A spokesperson for OHP did not comment on the report on Thursday.
The OESC spokesperson, Taylor Adams, said several posts had already been reported and taken down from public social media groups.
Zumwalt said misinformation and misconceptions about the legal proceedings have fueled some of the online frustration.
Last week, Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner sent an email to attorneys representing Zumwalt and those behind a separate lawsuit concerning the unemployment benefits. The Friday evening message told the group he planned to rule against the state on Monday.
The state’s attorneys who represented Zumwalt in her capacity as the OESC director sent a response to the judge to request a stay in his order. The message was criticized by the opposing side’s attorneys because it was not an official filing in court.
The state’s motion to stay was later formally addressed and denied by Bonner.
Zumwalt said online posts suggested she emailed Bonner, which was not correct.
“Recently a story saying I emailed the judge in the district case. And this was illegal and some other things. I want to be completely clear, (it's) 100 percent false,” she said. “We’re seeing people react emotionally to things that are not true.”