Attorney General approves Stitt’s business transition plan
Ponca City Now - March 15, 2019 4:54 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter on Friday released a finalized review of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s proposed plans to separate himself from his business interests and other potential conflicts, now that he has transitioned from private to public life.
The plans detail how the governor has worked with outside attorneys and accountants to completely separate himself from his business interests.
“The governor has taken dispositive steps to avoid conflicts of interest,” Hunter said. “I appreciate his thorough approach and for seeking proper guidance in this matter.”
The attorney general’s review answers multiple questions in two broad categories. The first questions relate to potential conflicts that may arise between his financial interests and his role as governor. The second set of questions are regarding the payment of expenses relating to the transition and inauguration events.
- Appointing members of the banking board
- The governor’s mortgage company is set to merge with an Oklahoma bank, and he has removed himself from any governance role in the mortgage company. He has addressed the potential for a direct conflict of interest. Additionally, appointments to the banking board raise few conflict of interest concerns because of built in checks and balances. In specific, the governor does not have unfettered discretion to choose appointees and members of the board must be confirmed by the senate.
- Communications with the Oklahoma Banking Department and other state agencies to advocate on issues
- Ethics Rule 4 does not prohibit or place limitations on interactions between the banking department and the governor and his staff. It should be noted that laws promoting public transparency, such as the Open Records Act, may be applicable to documents created in the course of such interaction.
- The governor’s role in the legislative process
- Legislation that exclusively affects only businesses in which the governor or his immediate family has a financial interest, although an unlikely occurrence is violative of the Oklahoma Constitution’s prohibitions on special laws and the granting of exclusive privileges to specific associations, corporations, or individuals. If the governor is presented with legislation that violates such constitutional strictures, he should veto the legislation pursuant to his duty to uphold the State’s Constitution.
Payment of expenses
- Limitations and restrictions on the use of the public funds provided for under the constitution during the transition
- Oklahoma law contemplates the period of transition by directing the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) “to provide the Governor-elect … with such reasonable and necessary services as the Governor-elect … may request in the performance of his or her duties prior to taking office and in preparation for assuming the duties of office.” The office is allocated up to $30,000 of the funds appropriated to OMES for use by the governor-elect
- Whether private funds held by the Oklahoma Turnaround Fund may be used for inaugural activities or expenses incurred by the governor-elect in his transition to office and preparation for assuming his duties as governor.
- We are not aware of a state law prohibiting private funds from being used to pay for a private citizen’s preparation to assume public office. To the extent such private funds are solicited by a charitable organization, the charitable organization’s solicitations in Oklahoma are governed by the Oklahoma Charitable Solicitations Act, which requires registration with the Oklahoma Secretary of State and certain information reporting. Other federal and ethics laws outside the scope of this letter may also apply.
To read the document, click here: Hunter’s ruling.