Attorney General Hunter releases Tar Creek audits
Ponca City Now - April 9, 2018 4:33 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday requested and received approval from Judge Thomas Prince, who presides over the state’s Multicounty Grand Jury, to release the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust audits that were requested by the state’s previous attorney general in 2011.
With the audit, Hunter also released associated investigative files.
Hunter said the release of the audits come at his discretion, as is the case with all investigatory audits presented to the multicounty grand jury unit.
“The politicization of this matter by an out-of-state special interest group is unnecessary and unwarranted,” Hunter said. “The facts are clear: The investigative audits looked into the bidding process for the removal of structures and to facilitate the removal of toxic debries, not the buyout and relocation of residents by the federal government. The matter which was the subject of the audits was reviewed by prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office, the EPA under President Barack Obama and reexamined and scrutinized by newly hired, experienced criminal prosecutors in my office. No one in the review chain described above found prosecutable evidence of criminal activity.
“My office continues to support transparency and remains committed to sharing information with Oklahomans in a manner consistent with the obligation to protect the rights of informants and individuals who are not charged with a crime. We will continue to defend the integrity of the multicounty grand jury process and those who appear before it.”
Since taking over as attorney general last February, Attorney General Hunter’s office has complied with 185 open records requests containing more than 95,000 pages.
The LICRAT audits are considered an 18f, or investigatory audit, which is requested by the attorney general to the state auditor when necessary to assist in investigations. Unlike other audits, an 18f is part of litigation and investigatory files of the Attorney General’s Office.
These files are kept confidential to preserve the integrity of the investigation. However, it is not uncommon to provide information within the investigative audit to the audited party after its completion to allow them to respond to or clarify information.
These files only become public at the discretion of the attorney general, or if criminal charges are filed and the documents become part of the court files.
No criminal charges were filed after the LICRAT audits were complete, therefore never making them an open document.
In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, under then-President Barack Obama’s EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, launched an investigation after receiving complaints similar to what led to the state’s audits.
The EPA investigation revealed no evidence to support any of the allegations. No further action was taken by the federal government.
Read the Tulsa World’s article on the 2013 EPA investigation, here: https://bit.ly/2qjpL1r.
In 2017, after the lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based special interest Campaign for Accountability, Attorney General Hunter tasked MCGJ Chief Joy Thorpe and Senior Deputy Attorney General Tom Gruber, both experienced prosecutors, with reassessing whether charges should have been or needed to be filed in the case.
Thorpe and Gruber both determined no larger investigation was necessary and that no criminal charges were warranted after review of the audits and MCGJ investigative files.
Responsive information was provided to the audits by the attorney for LICRAT Andy Lester.
Read Lester’s response to the audit, here: https://bit.ly/2EyBmPc.
The original audit was conducted before civil litigation caused the project to be re-bid. The original audit regarding the initial bidding process can be found, here: https://bit.ly/2GKlIlP.
Supporting documents can be found, here: https://bit.ly/2ICeOzK.
The second audit is the subject of the current litigation and what was investigated by multiple agencies. Read the second audit, here: https://bit.ly/2H8O2BY.
Supporting documents can be found, here: https://bit.ly/2qigQyf.
Read Attorney General Hunter’s application to Judge Prince for the release of the audits, here: https://bit.ly/2JzxbXm.
Read Judge Prince’s response, here: https://bit.ly/2GQQ724