Governor Stitt sues AG for notice forcing Cabinet resignation

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt sued Attorney General Gentner Drummond on Thursday over a recent AG opinion that forced a member of the governor’s cabinet to resign.

Filed in Oklahoma County District Court, the suit seeks a judicial declaration that cabinet secretaries who serve as agency heads are not violating the state’s ban against dual serving and that the The gubernatorial nomination and Senate confirmation process cannot be challenged by the advice of an attorney general. .

Stitt is joined as a plaintiff in the suit by Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur, Human Services Secretary Deb Shropshire and Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Secretary Shelley Zumwalt. The case was assigned to Oklahoma District Judge Richard Ogden.

Drummond’s disputed opinion on the dual-duty ban led to the resignation of Tim Gatz, who was secretary of Transportation, director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Stitt pointed to precedent in his criticism of the opinion, noting that the last four Oklahoma governors had members of their cabinets who were also state department heads.

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Video from March 1, 2024. After Tim Gatz resigned as transportation secretary, Stitt pointed out that Oklahoma governors in the past have had cabinet members who were also directors of state agencies. Video via Governor Stitt’s Youtube page

Phil Bacharach, communications director for the Attorney General, said: “As the notice makes clear, Governor Stitt’s own executive orders, combined with recent legislation he signed, have given Cabinet positions new authority which amounts to the legal definition of a “public”. desk.’ Under previous governors, this was not the case.

The lawsuit references a section of state law that says a cabinet secretary “may be appointed to a position funded by the Office of the Governor from funds available for that office, or appointed as cabinet secretary from among heads of agencies within the cabinet”. .”

“The AG’s most recent opinion regarding Tim Gatz is completely wrong, and in order to continue working to make Oklahoma a top 10 state, a court will need to clean up the mess created by the opinion” , Stitt said in the press release.

“I have the best people in Oklahoma running my state agencies, and it makes sense that they would be my advisors,” Stitt said.

Just after the governor announced his lawsuit, Drummond’s office issued its own statement saying the attorney general “supports his legally binding opinion and welcomes the opportunity to respond to the lawsuit in an upcoming filing.”

The governor’s press release announcing the lawsuit included supportive comments from his two Cabinet members.

Arthur is not only Secretary of Agriculture, but also Director of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. “I have seen first-hand the positive impact that someone in both roles can have,” she said. “I look forward to clarity on this issue and doing everything I can to help agriculture thrive in Oklahoma.”

Zumwalt, who serves as both secretary of tourism, wildlife and heritage and director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, said she agreed that “the governor should be in able to select a firm of his choice.

Shropshire, who serves as both secretary of human services and director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, said, “I was appointed by the governor and I remain focused on my work to end child abuse and strengthen families. I am dedicated to leading an agency that creates hope and positive outcomes for our state’s most vulnerable families and appreciate any clarification on the issue at hand.

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Patrick Prince

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