Consultant on Marriage
Initiative Skirts Contract Rules,
A political consultant who was handed a $400,000 public relations contract through the state marriage initiative hasn't complied with the terms of the agreement, prompting a state lawmaker to call for suspension of the contract.
The contract for Mary Myrick, a Republican political consultant, stipulates that she provide quarterly reports to Department of Human Services, including "itemization of the costs paid and the costs incurred," but the first report filed by her Oklahoma City public relations firm contains no such information.
Senator Kevin Easley, who first questioned the propriety of the contract last week, wants the contract payments suspended, saying the latest revelations only raise additional concerns about the agreement.
"Without any financial accounting, we don't have any idea where state tax dollars are going. The state has pledged to pay this person up to $1.6 million over the next four years, but we aren't getting any documentation about how she's spending the money. It's a recipe for disaster," said Senator Easley.
"When the first report doesn't even meet simple contract requirements, it's not a very encouraging sign about the quality of work that Oklahoma taxpayers will ultimately receive from the vendor. If they can't follow a few simple rules, maybe the state of Oklahoma shouldn't be paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The contract should be suspended until the Legislature is assured that the money isn't being wasted."
In October, Myrick's firm Public Strategies was given a one-year $400,000 marriage initiative contract with an additional three-year renewal clause, making the contract worth a potential $1.6 million over its lifetime. Myrick was the lone bidder.
The terms of the contract require her to
compile quarterly reports, documenting the
Almost two days after the initial request was made, DHS produced a document that was billed as a quarterly report, but it contained no financial data. Also absent was a stamped date mark -- information that is common to such contract reports -- indicating the day it was actually filed and received. The report was printed on plain paper, with no letterhead designating it as a document created by Myrick's firm or dates showing when it was created.
Senator Easley said those signs lead him to believe that the quarterly report may not have been filed until just last week, almost two months after the required filing deadline.
"It looks like this was a rush job to me. This document was supposed to be completed and filed two months ago, but it has the appearance of something that was thrown together in a couple of hours. If the state is going to entrust Ms. Myrick with this much money, the least that it can demand is accountability," said Senator Easley.
The state lawmaker said the report doesn't provide any evidence showing that Myrick is actually working to prevent divorce in Oklahoma - the supposed goal of the marriage initiative. For example, one of the highlighted tasks was a trip that two staff members took to a conference in Minneapolis sponsored by the National Council on Family Relations.
"I don't see how a junket to Minneapolis is going to keep struggling families in Oklahoma from breaking up. It looks like this particular political consultant has a blank check to do anything she wants, whether it helps the state of Oklahoma or not. To say that this is a waste of taxpayer money would be an understatement," said Senator Easley.
The state legislator has proposed transferring
approximately $9 million from the marriage initiative to a heating assistance
program. He also wants to prohibit state officials from funneling more
money into the marriage program, unless each specific expenditure is
approved by the Legislature. Legislation that would do just that, SB
264, is currently
In the meantime, Senator Easley is urging state officials to suspend the Myrick contract on grounds that she is not complying with the terms of the agreement.
"She's already violated the terms of the contract and it's only a few months old. I think it should be suspended immediately and a thorough review should follow to determine if this venture is really going to benefit the state," said Senator Easley.
*Mary Myrick is a longtime Republican political consultant. Most recently, Myrick made headlines when she and a firm employee attempted to prevent Oklahoma City animal control officers from removing Myrick's pet monkey from her office after a biting incident (Source: Daily Oklahoman).
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