KGOU

With Lawsuit Pending, Stitt Nominee For Veterans Secretary Withdraws

Mar 14, 2019

The head of an international consulting firm that is being sued by more than a dozen veterans has withdrawn his nomination from Gov. Kevin Stitt to be Oklahoma’s next secretary of veterans affairs and the military.

The governor’s office confirmed Wednesday that Brian Brurud, a former fighter pilot and founder and CEO of Tulsa-based Check-6, has pulled his name from consideration for the cabinet position.

Stitt spokeswoman Donelle Harder said in a statement that Brurud “ultimately decided that he needed to remain focused on current personal and business commitments.” The governor has accepted that decision, she said.

The statement did not elaborate on why Brurud is withdrawing from the job within three weeks of being nominated.

Oklahoma Watch reported earlier this month that Brurud’s nomination, which would have required Senate confirmation, came as his company is facing accusations in a federal lawsuit that it violated federal labor laws by underpaying veterans.

Fifteen former workers allege that Check-6 “showed reckless disregard” of the law by classifying the veterans as consultants instead of employees in an effort to avoid paying them overtime, court filings show. The plaintiffs say they collectively were shortchanged  more than $670,000 overin a nearly three-year period.

Check-6 provides consulting services to high-risk industries, including offshore oil drilling operations, across the world. It contracts almost exclusively with armed-service veterans who act as “coaches,” providing safety training and other services.

The legal challenge was originally filed as a class-action lawsuit in 2016. But a federal judge decertified the class action last year, leading each of the 15 former coaches to file separate lawsuits in November. Those cases are ongoing.

Harder told Oklahoma Watch before Brurud withdrew his nomination that the governor was aware of the lawsuit and had been told that any “remaining issues will be coming to a quick conclusion” since the lawsuit no longer had class-action status.

On Wednesday, Harder reiterated that the governor stands by Brurud, saying Stitt appointed Brurud for “his successful business track record, his military experience and his passion for veterans’ issues.”

Jennifer Eve, director of marketing for Check-6, said Wednesday that Brurud was honored to be nominated and would have made an “outstanding” cabinet member.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org.

Eve declined to say whether the lawsuits had anything to do with the withdrawal of his nomination and instead noted his many commitments as the company’s CEO.

“Check-6 is expanding operations in several new markets,” she said in an emailed statement. “The time commitment for him is significant, and he is focused on continuing to provide outstanding service to our clients, and a generous livelihood for those who work for the company.