Senate Business and Labor Committee co-chairs, Senators Debbe Leftwich and Harry Coates, are furious with the actions taken by the Construction Industries Board (CIB) Thursday during its July meeting and are considering requesting an audit of the agency. The legislators, while pleased to see a permanent administrator hired, were disappointed by the boards decision to retain Jerry Regier as the boards Interim Administrator.
Were glad to see the board finally make a decision on a permanent director. Maybe now they can get on with the business at hand, said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.
Coates said he was appalled by the CIBs willingness to waste the taxpayers and industrys money especially during such uncertain economic times.
This is a clear manipulation of our states retirement system. It has allowed a bureaucrat to tap into the states retirement system at a time when we cant afford to provide state employees a raise nor retired educators an adequate cost-of-living increase, said Coates, R-Seminole. We believe that the actions of the CIB are a textbook case of governmental sprawl that occurs when we create new agencies and dont provide adequate oversight. If the CIB has enough money to make these kinds of hiring decisions, perhaps they should consider reducing the costs of licenses for Oklahomas hardworking trades people and contractors.
The legislators were also bothered by the turnout for the meeting. In 2007, Coates authored SB 2131, effective July 1 of this month, to decrease the number of board members from eleven to seven in order to ensure that most, if not all, of the members attended the monthly meetings. The pair, therefore, did not understand why only five board members were present for such an important vote for the agency regarding the immediate firing of Regier. The final vote was 3 to 2 to keep Regier. The legislators questioned why two of the members did not show up for the job they were appointed to do and were concerned that they were possibly persuaded, by those who favored Regiers continued employment, to not attend the meeting in order to ensure th outcome of the vote.
Since bringing the actions of the CIB to light earlier this month, the legislators have received numerous emails and phone calls from state employees and private citizens concerned about the situation. Based on the information they are receiving, Leftwich and Coates believe an audit may be in order.
Since this whole thing started, several people have contacted our offices and brought forth alarming information. We believe its in the best interest of the state and, quite frankly, the new director for us to request a performance audit of the CIB, said Leftwich.
Coates further said the situation has brought to light the need for greater oversight and possibly new laws to help prevent such inappropriate hiring practices among state agencies in the future. He pointed out that the previous administrator was fired in November giving the board seven months to consider applicants for the permanent position and then chose to hire both a temporary and permanent administrator within two weeks a situation Coates believes stemmed from a lack of proper oversight.
We still believe that Mr. Regier and others orchestrated his hiring solely for the purpose of making him eligible to draw state retirement. Its just too strange - they claimed they needed a temporary administrator because of the backlog of work. Obviously they were behind because they took way too long to fill the position. And why did it take them so long when they had so many highly-qualified applicants? said Coates. We find it ironic that within a week of the situation being exposed, they were able to hire a permanent administrator. This whole mess has made us realize that besides requesting an audit, we also need to look at our state laws to see how we can prevent these types of shenanigans from happening in the future. At the very least were going to keep a closer eye on this agency.