Audit of Oklahoma health agency changed, could bring charges

November 2, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A probe of the Oklahoma State Department of Health is being changed to an investigative audit, meaning it could lead to criminal charges in the wake of the resignations of the agency’s top two officials after they were accused of financial mismanagement.

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones told The Oklahoman on Thursday that the state attorney general’s office requested the change.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hunter, declined to say whether a criminal investigation has been opened.

“We do not comment on whether or not there is an ongoing investigation,” Terri Watkins told The Associated Press.

The health department requested an audit last month after Commissioner Terry Cline and senior Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain reported “a budget and operating cash shortfall” since the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

Cline and Cox-Kain resigned Monday after the Board of Health accused them of financial mismanagement. Cline also stepped down as Gov. Mary Fallin’s health secretary.

Almost 1,500 agency employees are being furloughed without pay one day for each two-week pay period to reduce expenses. The agency previously announced plans to lay off about 250 employees, or 12 percent of its workforce, early next year.

The agency has also canceled 25 contracts to reimburse federally qualified health centers for medical expenses not covered by insurance or other funding as well as a home-visitation program offered by Oklahoma Child Abuse Prevention, spokesman Tony Sellars said.

State finance secretary Preston Doerflinger has been named interim health commissioner and, on Thursday, Fallin appointed Oklahoma State Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Steven Buck to replace Cline.

Update hourly