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PM NewsBrief: June 20, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for June 20, 2024.

Governor Changes Up Titles For Advisors

Oklahoma law prohibits state officials from holding more than one office and collecting more than one government salary. But Gov. Kevin Stitt appears to have found a workaround.

As recently as last month, the governor’s website featured a page titled “Meet your Cabinet Secretaries.” As first noted by legislative watchdog Quorum Call, that page has been replaced with a list of “Governor Stitt’s Chief Advisors.”

Earlier this year, Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued an opinion saying the governor’s cabinet members aren’t exempt from a state rule prohibiting officials from holding more than one office.

Basically, agency heads can’t also serve on the Governor’s cabinet.

He specifically aimed the opinion at Tim Gatz, who was then the Secretary of Transportation and the director of two state agencies.

Gatz resigned from the cabinet, but now he’s back - not as a cabinet member, but as the Governor’s Chief Transportation Advisor.

Stitt’s office did not answer questions about how these advisory roles would differ from cabinet appointments.

It’s also unclear whether or how much these advisors will be paid.

Audit Finds Missing Money From Several Cities

At least a half dozen small towns across Oklahoma misspent what little tax money they have so far this year.

State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd said the problem is systemic and multifaceted, but avoidable. But the damage is done.

Byrd said the money was misappropriated or misspent by local towns across Oklahoma.

That’s about $2.1 million dollars Byrd’s office has accounted for this year that has just disappeared into the pockets of city managers, board members, clerks and independent contractors.

Byrd said problems are consistently related to poor leadership in tiny towns across the state, like Braman, Wynnewood and Pauls Valley, but also some county-level governments.

“I think this is a systemic issue across Oklahoma. I think board members come and go, it's very hard to get board members to even serve. I know a lot of municipalities aren't operating with all board positions filled,” Byrd said.

And that, Byrd said, leads to a lack of knowledgeable management and eventual lack of oversight and misspending.

Deadline Looming For Oklahoma’s Promise Program

High school students have only a few weeks left to enroll in the state’s tuition scholarship program.

The deadline for Oklahoma’s Promise is July 1.

Oklahoma’s Promise, also known as OHLAP, is available for students who were in 8th through 11th grades during the 2023 to 24 school year.

July 1 is the last day that upcoming 12th graders can enroll.

To be eligible, students’ families must meet the annual income limits: $60,000 a year for families with up to two dependent children, $70,000 for families with three or four dependent children, and $80,000 for families with five or more dependent children.

The scholarship covers tuition at any Oklahoma public university or college for up to five years, or for a maximum of 129 credit hours.

It can also be used for some of the tuition at accredited private colleges in Oklahoma or public career tech centers for certain programs.

To stay eligible, students have to attend class regularly, take college prep courses and maintain a GPA of at least 2.5, among other requirements.

To apply, visit okpromise.org.

Another Oklahoma Basketball Team In Championship Playoffs

Oklahoma’s only tribally owned basketball team is blazing another notable trail.

The Potawatomi Fire is in The Basketball League Playoffs to fight for the 2024 championship title.

The Potawatomi Fire is almost three seasons old. But they are scorching the competition with another hot season, as they remain undefeated with a 26 to 0 record.

Last weekend, the team clutched the West Region championship title, taking it from the LA Ignite. Paul Harrison and Ricky Artis II led the way, each scoring 25 points during Saturday’s game.

Now the Fire will go head-to-head with the St. Louis Griffons in a two to three-game series, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. in Saint Louis.

The second game will be held at the FireLake Arena in Shawnee on Sunday, with tip-off starting at 7 p.m.

If the Potawatomi Fire beats the Griffons this week, that will be back-to-back titles. Last season, they beat Saint Louis in the championship, earning them the 2023 TBA crown.

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