Oklahoma Health Board Fires Accountability Director

Dec 13, 2017

After a nearly two hour closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Board of Health voted to fire the department’s accountability director. The move comes as investigators and lawmakers probe the alleged mismanagement of $30 million dollars at the state agency.

The nine-member board voted to fire Jay Holland from his post as Director of the Office of Accountability Systems. The position is charged with keeping the board and health commissioner informed of any suspected fraud or abuse.

After reading a statement saying the agency should have more transparency and accountability, board president Martha Burger refused to take reporters’ questions. One Health Department official physically blocked reporters from questioning board members.

“This position was created out of the previous scandal that involved the department of health, I would suggest that some duties were blurred,” said interim health commissioner Preston Doerflinger.

The firing follows a string of resignations at the agency, including Commissioner Terry Cline, Senior Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Kain, and Chief Operating Officer Deborah Nichols.

On Friday, the health department announced plans to lay off nearly 200 employees. The agency cut 37 positions immediately at both the central office and at county health departments across the state. The health department plans to cut another 161 positions in March. The move is expected to cost $3 million in unemployment benefits, but save the department an estimated $10.5 million annually.

A special house investigative committee questioned three high-ranking officials, including Doerflinger, over apparent financial mismanagement at the agency on Monday. That committee meets again Thursday.