Representative Mike Reynolds Takes on State Auditor Burrage

Note: This article was written by ROBIN READER (612) and was originally published on her website Broken Arrow Forum on August 12, 2010, and reappears here on this blog with her permission.

(did you know that it’s an election year?)

Tulsa World “State auditor, lawmaker trade heated words”, including link to audio

I have had concerns for some time that an orchestrated effort has been made to remove critical information or delay release,” Reynolds said. (5:37)

Wow, that’s a bold statement. Accusing the state auditor’s office of intentionally removing critical information from the report. So is this an indication that the audit did NOT uncover evidence of Sisney’s accusations against the school board, AA, and school employees? So now Reynolds is trying to explain why it’s not there – that the auditor’s office is in on the corruption? Isn’t this just what we joked the Sisney supporters would say when Sisney’s accusations were shown to be groundless?

Below are some highlights from the press conference. The audio is available on the TW story; my times are approximate.

4:20  “I confirmed that the AG had signed off on the release several weeks ago. I wanted to know why it hadn’t been released, and Mr. Branch said that the law required that exit interviews had to be conducted with the board. Why the required exit interviews had not been scheduled the same day the attorney general signed off, I do not know.”

15:00  “The same day he signed off, they should have contacted the school board and said, ‘we’re going to conduct your exit interviews tomorrow’.”

We do require our board members to be in town and available to drop everything to come to a unscheduled meeting any day, any time, don’t we? Isn’t that why we pay them the big bucks?

4:50  “It is alarming that state law allows people that might be the subject of an investigation to receive a two-week head start on the public and legislature.”

It’s clear that Reynolds is very unhappy that the board members gets to see the audit before he does. A head start on what? Countering his spin maybe?

5:25  “I also asked what provision in the statutes would allow a member of the law firm to be present, especially since attorney Doug Mann of the firm had previously indicated that he was working on behalf individually of some of the school board members.”

Mann had made a phone call months earlier to Reynolds regarding the sick pay, and said that phone call was made on behalf of some of the board members. What is Reynolds trying to say is wrong with that? Is he trying to convince us there is something improper about individual board members requesting that District counsel perform a specific task relating to school business? Is he saying a board meeting is required before a board member can ask the school attorney to make a phone call? If that is the case, how did Terry Stover get away with being the only board member authorized to even speak with the district’s legal counsel? And why does he object to the District’s counsel seeing the audit before he does?

6:40  “In our first conversion, Mann bragged how he represented over one half of all the school districts in Oklahoma. His firm has made millions of dollars that should be used to benefit the students of Oklahoma.”

Is building a successful company a crime in itself now, or is Reynolds saying that since the company has made millions of dollars, they must have done it illegally or unethically, and therefore aren’t entitled to it?

5:10  “Mr. Burrage contacted me earlier today. I expressed my concerns that the audit might be watered down.”

5:37  “I have had concerns for some time that an orchestrated effort has been made to remove critical information or delay release,” Reynolds said. (5:37)

"First of all Representative Reynolds, you tell lies!" - Steve Burrage at microphone, Rep. Mike Reynolds looking on

7:30  In response to Burrage’s statement that a cover-up would never happen in his audit: “I did not accuse you of covering up; there are many tape recorders in the room . If you have taken personal offense, I would suspect that you ought to examine the record.”

Well, I have examined the record. Burrage is the final authority on the audit. It is HIS audit, and he has full responsibility for it completeness and accuracy. A “watered-down” report is not complete or accurate. Further, “watered-down” means that someone intentionally misrepresented or omitted information in order to give a certain impression. That is covering up. Reynolds also stated that he was concerned that “an orchestrated effort has been made to remove critical information.” That also means that it’s intentional, and it’s to give an inaccurate impression – covering up. Reynolds did not use the words “covering up”. But that is exactly what he expressed in the words he did use. To deny the meaning of what he said is a lie.

10:30  “I did not request the audit – the audit was originally requested, I believe, by Mr. Jim Sisney, who was at the time superintendent of the Broken Arrow schools.”

Jim Sisney requested an audit about two years ago (9/29/2008), but it wasn’t this one. It was from a firm called “Wilson, Dotson and Associates”. He was suspended before the audit was started. His audit letter was then modified slightly by Wilson, Dotson and Associates to expand the scope of the narrow “Bid-splitting” item to a broader item addressing whether the Competitive Bidding Act was adhered to for all PO’s. Obviously this broader item would include verifying that no bid-splitting occurred. The revised audit was signed by Terry Stover, the board president and Sisney supporter. The audit was neither changed nor signed by Dr. Gerber, as Sisney implied. The audit was completed 1/31/2009, and while it did show that competitive bidding procedures were not strictly followed, it did not indicate evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

The audit that is the subject of Reynold’s press release was requested by the Broken Arrow Board of Education, on 4/20/2009. The purpose of this audit, to be done by the state auditor’s office, is to address allegations that were made by Sisney and presented to the BOE in a taxpayer demand letter.

How Reynolds could have been following this controversy and specifically this audit for all this time and not know that it was requested by the BOE 6 months after Sisney was fired?

12:20  “I am alarmed that if an audit is released with these things removed, it makes it much more difficult to amend.”

Are audits amended after they are completed and released?

15:43  “I think that it would be very appropriate for a legislative oversight committee, certainly, or any member of the legislature, to be able to be briefed just as quickly as people that might be under investigation are briefed. And I really don’t understand why the public and the press can’t be briefed at the same time. if the audit is complete, I would be very disappointed that board members would be able to have more information and possible – more input into changing the audit.”

Does Reynolds really think that the 14-day period is to allow board members – people under investigation, as he says – to make changes to the audit? Or is he just trying to make us think that?

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