After being sued by a Washington D.C. watchdog group and facing criticism, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has released controversial audits of how the buyout of homes and businesses was handled at the Tar Creek Superfund site.
He announced the release after getting approval from Judge Thomas Prince who presides over Oklahoma’s Multicounty Grand Jury. The audits pertained to the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust (LICRAT) and its handling of the buyouts. The audits had been requested by former Attorney General Scott Pruitt in 2011 before he was named Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Hunter also released some associated investigative files. In releasing the audits, he took a swipe at the Campaign for Accountability which filed suit against him last year in Oklahoma County District Court.
“The politicization of this matter by an out of state special interest group is unnecessary and unwarranted,” Hunter said. “The facts are clear: The investigative audits looked into the bidding process for the removal of structures and to facilitate the removal of toxic debris, not the buyout and relocation of residents by the federal government.”
He continued, “The matter which was the subject of the audits was reviewed by prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office, the EPA under President Barack Obama and reexamined and scrutinized by newly hired, experienced criminal prosecutors in my office. No one in the review chain described above found prosecutable evidence of criminal activity.”
State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones disagreed and felt there had been criminal wrongdoing on the part of some LICRAT members. He made such recommendations to then-attorney general Pruitt but Pruitt declined and also refused to release the audit performed by Jones and his staff.
The controversy led to allegations that Hunter was not being transparent in his operations, something he denied in releasing the audits on Monday.
“My office continues to support transparency and remains committed to sharing information with Oklahomans in a manner consistent with the obligation to protect the rights of informants and individuals who are not charged with a crime. We will continue to defend the integrity of the multicounty grand jury process and those who appear before it.”
In announcing the release of the audit, Hunter’s office stated it has complied with 185 open records requests involving more than 95,000 pages.
“The LICRAT audits are considered an 18f, or investigatory audit, which is requested by the attorney general to the state auditor when necessary to assist in investigations. Unlike other audits, an 18f is part of litigation and investigatory files of the Attorney General’s Office,” stated the announcement.
“These files are kept confidential to preserve the integrity of the investigation. However, it is not uncommon to provide information within the investigative audit to the audited party after its completion to allow them to respond to or clarify information,” continued Hunter’s office announcement.