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Citizens Group Wants Oklahoma Finance Secretary Ousted For Voucher Stance, Past Legal Troubles

Finance secretary Preston Doerflinger (left), House Speaker Jeff Hickman (center), and State Sen. Clark Jolley (right) address the budget situation and revenue failure during a Deember 17, 2015 news conference at the state Capitol.
Joe Wertz
StateImpact Oklahoma
Finance secretary Preston Doerflinger (left), House Speaker Jeff Hickman (center), and State Sen. Clark Jolley (right) address the budget situation and revenue failure during a Deember 17, 2015 news conference at the state Capitol.

A grassroots organization that pushed for an investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is now calling on Gov. Mary Fallin to replace Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger.

We The People Oklahoma wants Doerflinger to step down because of ongoing state budget issues, and what they call “divisive” statements against other public officials. Doerflinger made the comments last week on an Oklahoma City talk radio program after legislative leaders announced a deal to pull just over $78 million from Oklahoma’s constitutional Rainy Day Fund for the Department of Education and the Department of Corrections.

On Thursday, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said legislation dealing with Education Savings Account, which are more commonly known as school vouchers, would not be heard in either chamber. Opponents criticize the program for giving state money to private schools, while supporters argue it increases parents’ say in their children’s options.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed today, to be honest with you, that we’re going to throw more money at common education and Republicans are unable to pass legislation that would give parents and students more choice in their education,” Doerflingertold The Alexander Show host Chad Alexander on KOKC-AM on Thursday. “I’m blown away today by the fact that we’re unable to get traction on that issue, and I guess, really, the Republicans right now should put ‘Ds’ after their name and call it good.”

Doerflinger also criticized state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, calling her “a Republican in Democrat’s clothes.” The finance secretary took issue with a fiscal impact study he called inaccurate, saying his office was never consulted.

“No matter your politics the education and safety of our children should not be relegated to rhetoric and talking points,” We The People Oklahoma said in a statement calling on Fallin to replace Doerflinger. “This is not the time to throw insults or to advocate for a program that will put a bigger financial strain on an already stressed system, which will cost the state more money.”

We The People Oklahoma also criticized Doerflinger’s personal judgement, citing his 2015 arrest for an alcohol-related incident in northwest Oklahoma City. At the time Doerflinger was charged with being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Police say Doerflinger was found in the passenger seat of a vehicle idling in a parking lot.

Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman John Estus said he hadn't yet spoken to Doerflinger when KGOU reached out for comment, but Monday morning the finance secretary told The Oklahoman’s Rick Green he’s frustrated neither chamber considered the Education Savings Account proposal:

He acknowledged that his earlier comments may have been too forceful and said he doesn't have personal feelings against those on the other side of the school voucher issue. "It doesn't mean I don't like those individuals as people," he said. . . . He said that given another chance, "I would probably temper the comments. I wouldn't alter the thoughts behind them, but I would temper the comments."

We The People Oklahoma led the petition drive for the probe into Tulsa County Sheriff's Office last year after reserve deputy fatally shot an unarmed man. The grand jury investigation led to misdemeanor charges filed against Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who stepped down in November.

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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