Corporation Commissioners relucant to give direct support to Auditor Cindy Byrd


The Oklahoma Corporation Commission put the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services on notice—it stands by the state’s Central Purchasing Act and required competitive bidding for contracts and an Attorney General’s investigation of the office. But it wouldn’t come out and directly give support to the State Auditor who peeled back the layers of an onion called “conflict of interest.”

The move came at the urging of Commissioner Bob Anthony who in the end, chose not to participate in the vote on a motion offered by Commission Chairman Todd Hiett. Anthony wanted a direct support of State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd whose recent 2022 audit lambasted OMES for granting rolling contracts or those without competitive bidding. Why was Anthony so interested? Because the Corporation Commission has its own rolling contracts.

In her audit, Byrd suggested Oklahoma was becoming a “no bid” state and Commissioner Anthony agreed with her scathing audit saying the actions of OMES were “potentially disastrous for this agency (OCC).”

During the presentation on his call for a direct motion to support Byrd’s criticism of the statewide contracting pilot programs known as Rolling Request for Proposal or Rolling Solicitations, Anthony met opposition by OCC Administrator Brandy Wreath who felt the motion was too vague and might jeopardize some of the agency’s no-bid contracts.

Still, Wreath declared his support for competitive bidding on state contracts. He admitted some of the Commission’s contracts, that had originally been made following competitive bidding, had becoming rolling contracts. But he defended the contracts.

Wreath pointed to some of his staffers and vowed, “They’re not crooked–they’re straight as an arrow” in defending the accuracy and validity of the contracts.  He explained he had met with the State Auditor and “they made no recommended changes for us.”

“I believe in it,” he added, referring to competitive bidding. “I strongly support a motion to do the right thing.”

Commissioner Kim David came out in support of the Auditor as well.

“We think the Auditor is spot on. The people need to know we as an agency are on top of this.”

While Commission Chairman Hiett reiterated his support for competitive bidding, it was his motion that eventually passed and it was not in direct support of Auditor Byrd and her assessment of OMES as Anthony wanted.

Hiett made it clear at the start of the discussion, “I agree with the findings (of the audit) but I think you’re putting the card ahead of the horse. There’s been no response from OMES management.”

Anthony later read from page 57 of the audit that pointed out OMES management does not agree with the findings.

“I want a statement—OMES is in a fix or as my grandfather used to say “they got their tail in a crack.””

Instead, Hiett’s motion acknowledged leadership of the Commission and its staff in following the State’s Central Purchasing Act and gave support for the Attorney General’s request for a special investigave audit following the release of Byrd’s audit. His motion did not offer the direct support to Byrd as requested by Commissioner Anthony.

Commissioners Hiett and David supported the motion and Anthony chose not to participate. 

“I’m baffled,” said Commissioner Bob Anthony.  “They said they agree with me and the State Auditor that there are serious problems with these no-bid pilot programs.  After being informed that our agency is using these programs to renew millions of dollars of contracts, I propose that we tell our agency it should adopt the State Auditor’s position on these programs going forward.  But instead, my fellow commissioners approve a motion that says the Commission is ‘demonstrating the highest integrity by adhering to the … statewide purchasing guidelines’ which includes those noncompliant pilot programs!  I’m sorry.  What?” said Commissioner Anthony in disbelief.

In a statement after the commission meeting, Anthony further wondered about what just happened.

“I understand my colleagues’ reluctance to believe that OMES offered no more substantive defense of these programs than to say it disagrees with the State Auditor’s findings.  I understand they want to believe there must be more coming.  But it’s been three weeks since the release of the FY2022 Single Audit, and OMES’s ongoing silence speaks volumes,” Commissioner Anthony said. 

“How Commissioners Hiett and David can actually endorse the continued use of programs so emphatically criticized by the State Auditor and pretend by doing so they are ‘adhering to the letter of the law governing expenditure of public funds’ is beyond my comprehension.  What law book are they reading?”