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Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters draws political heat, fines for recent actions

State Superintendent Ryan Walters presents his education budget proposal at his first meeting as superintendent, January 2023.
Beth Wallis
/
StateImpact Oklahoma
State Superintendent Ryan Walters presents his education budget proposal at his first meeting as superintendent, January 2023.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters is on the hook for nearly $8,000 in fees related to 14 late campaign reports, and Democratic lawmakers are leading a charge to impeach him.

Walters is contesting 13 of those orders, according toa story first reported by The Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission says Walters filed last-minute campaign contribution reports late before his primary, runoff and general elections. If a candidate receives a donation over $1,000 in the last two weeks before an election, they must report it within 24 hours.

A Commission official told The Oklahoman Walters’ reports were filed one to five days late, with one filed over 70 days late.

The merit of Walters’ contests will be ruled on by an administrative law judge sometime next year. If that doesn’t go how he wants, Walters can try again at the Oklahoma County District Court.

Walters was far from the only official with late reports, though what sets him apart is the sheer number of violations and his contesting of them — most candidates opt to just pay the fees. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, for example, paid $1,000 last November for failing to disclose a $75,000 loan before his primary, which was corrected on subsequent reports.

The sanctions come as political heat dials up on Walters, as House Democrats are calling for an investigation for possible impeachment charges.

Democrats say the legislature should investigate a litany of allegations against Walters. That includes:

House Speaker Charles McCall would have to green-light a bipartisan committee. He did not endorse it,telling media outlets that impeachment "is not something that should be taken lightly, and the call by a group of House Democrats seems to be more of a ready, fire, aim approach."

A spokesperson for Walters calls the move a “direct threat to democracy.”

“These liberal Democrats will stop at nothing to defend their union bosses and push a radical agenda on our kids,” spokesperson Dan Isett wrote in a statement. “It’s shameful, and Oklahomans won’t be fooled. Superintendent Walters is fighting to ensure Oklahoma parents have a place at the table and Oklahoma kids have a brighter future.”

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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