Published January 4, 2016 by Randy Ellis (NewsOK)
A dispute has arisen between the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office and State Auditor Gary Jones over whether the state attorney general’s office should be allowed to select its own independent auditor.
“I believe that according to statutes we have an obligation to audit them,” Jones told The Oklahoman. “Because he got his feelings hurt over a comment in a newspaper article does not provide an excuse over him being audited.”
An assistant attorney general said the attorney general’s office doesn’t oppose being audited, but believes Jones may have a conflict and an outside auditor should be selected.
Pruitt and Jones are both Republicans.
The dispute began Nov. 10 when Jones wrote a letter to Pruitt announcing that the auditor’s office has a legal “duty to examine the books and accounts of all state agencies” and that Jones was planning to initiate an audit of the attorney general’s office this month.
Michael Hunter, Pruitt’s first assistant, wrote back Dec. 31, stating that the attorney general’s office had already begun the bidding process to secure an “independent auditor” to perform the audit.
“This obviates the necessity of your office conducting the audit you propose,” Hunter wrote.
Jones countered Monday with another letter, stating he believes his office is legally required to perform the audit and plans to do so, unless the attorney general’s office can cite an exception.
“While this may be an administrative decision by your office to spend additional funds on a separate audit, it does not obviate the statutory requirement … which dictates that our office perform audits of all state agencies,” Jones wrote.
Jones said attorneys in Pruitt’s office apparently were upset by comments Jones made to a reporter for The Oklahoman, who asked him questions about the attorney general’s office adding dozens of new employees and moving into expanded and higher-priced office space in a time of state cutbacks.
Jones was quoted in the article as saying that the growth raised questions.
“The questions are, ‘Is there a need for that?’ ” Jones was quoted as saying. “And is that the best way the dollars should be spent?”
Jones told The Oklahoman Monday that he thought the remarks were innocuous.
“It in no way impairs our independence,” Jones said. “I made a general statement about spending in general when the question was asked of me.”
Attorneys in Pruitt’s office apparently felt differently.Follow @FortySixNews