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Kirby Settlement Overshadows Oklahoma Legislature’s Organizational Day

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The House has voted to seat Kirby, who rescinded a letter of resignation he submitted after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.
Sue Ogrocki
/
AP
State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House on Tuesday. The House voted to seat Kirby, who rescinded a letter of resignation he submitted after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.

The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to seat a lawmaker who walked back his resignation after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, spoke publicly for the first time about the situation, and said he had done nothing wrong.

“There was an investigation into the allegations and it was determined there was no sexual harassment,” Kirby said.

The complaint by a legislative assistant resulted in a nearly $45,000 settlement on Nov. 22.

House Democrats asked that Kirby's name be excluded from a motion to seat all House members elected in November and had taken the oath of office. State Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, said House Republicans don't even agree whether or not Kirby properly resigned, or rescinded the decision.

“So what are we going to do today? What do we want you to do?” Kirby asked. “We want you to just delay the seating of a member until those facts are determined."

The GOP-controlled chamber voted along partisan lines to seat Kirby. But he could still face a broad range of disciplinary options, The Oklahoman’s Rick Green reports:

House Speaker Charles McCall said beginning this week, the House Rules Committee would look into the case involving Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, who announced his resignation on Dec. 23 after the allegations became public and then rescinded that resignation on Dec. 28. Under Article Five, Section 30 of the state constitution, the House can punish its members for "disorderly behavior" and expel a member with a two-thirds vote. . . . [Kirby’s] supporters said his resignation never took effect because under Title 51, Section 9, of Oklahoma statutes, legislative resignations made when the Legislature is not in session need to be made to the governor. Kirby sent his to the speaker-elect, and not to the governor. The panel, which is expected to meet in secret, also will look more broadly at any other sexual harassment cases or allegations that may have occurred. It also will review the authority of the House to use operational funds to settle claims.

State Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka (left) newly elected Speaker of the House, is sworn in by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Doug Combs (right) on Jan. 3, 2017 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Credit Sue Ogrocki / AP
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AP
State Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka (left) newly elected Speaker of the House, is sworn in by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Doug Combs (right) on Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

House members also formally elected state Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, as speaker. He called for bipartisan solutions overcrowded prisons and low teacher pay.

“I understand revenues are down, but I believe we can work together and craft a responsible pay increase for a group of individuals that are so critical to our state,” McCall said during his acceptance speech.

McCall also addressed openness and transparency in the budgeting process the day before lawmakers meet for the first of several public hearings on the budgets of the five state agencies that receive about 80 percent of state-appropriated dollars.

McCall said in the past, budget hearings have been open only to members of the relevant legislative committees.

"My hope is that each of you will attend, present questions, and give feedback,” McCall said. “We need your ideas on how we can do things better and more efficiently. We are also facing these challenges together."

On Wednesday, lawmakers will examine and discuss the budget of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The rest of the sessions will take place Thursday through Tuesday, and will focus on the departments of transportation, higher education, human services, and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

State Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, newly elected President Pro Tempore, is handed the gavel by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (right) in the Senate chambers in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.
Credit Sue Ogrocki / AP
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AP
State Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, newly elected President Pro Tempore, is handed the gavel by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (right) in the Senate chambers in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

On the other side of the Capitol, state Senators unanimously elected state Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, as the President Pro Tem.

Schulz says he's humbled by the opportunity and never expected to lead the Senate when he took office 10 years ago. He also says he looks forward to collaborating with his colleagues.

"There's extremely bright minds sitting in the seats of this chamber today. These minds will produce great ideas and great policies that will help our state grow and prosper,” Schulz said. “I'm excited to work with you all as a body, and excited to work with all of you as individual members of this chamber.”

The next legislative session begins on Feb. 6 with Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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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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