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Capital City: Gov gathers cabinet, mayor offers new ideas

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Drone image of Oklahoma State Capitol looking southeast.
Drone image of Oklahoma State Capitol looking southeast.

Good Friday morning! 

Gov. Kevin Stitt held his first cabinet meeting yesterday. Those in attendance said it was fast-paced and run much like an executive meeting at a major corporation. 

The meeting also included newly nominated secretary positions, including David Ostrowe, the president of a large restaurant group who is expected to be nominated as secretary of digital transformation and administration.

Also in attendance was Tim Gatz, the current executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, who is expected to be nominated as secretary of transportation.

Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs executive director Steven Buck, who is expected to be named secretary of human services, was also at the meeting.

Following the meeting, Stitt announced that Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell will become his secretary of tourism and branding, a new secretary position he created by separating tourism and commerce.

Not at Thursdays meeting was Stitt's public safety commissioner ... Gov. Kevin Stitt has put on hold the reappointment of the state's public safety commissioner until an investigation into possible corruption at the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is complete.

Taking over the investigation will be Attorney General Mike Hunter's top agent, The Oklahoman has learned.

The takeover comes after concerns were raised about an internal investigation at the Oklahoma Highway Patrol into blackmail accusations against a patrol captain.

Capt. Troy German is accused of trying to blackmail Commissioner Rusty Rhoades last year to get a promotion to major or help securing a political appointment.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN CONTINUES ... A nearly monthlong partial government shutdown has forced 636 federal workers in Oklahoma to file unemployment claims.

The IRS announced this week it will return tens of thousands of its employees to work as tax filing season approaches, but in downtown Oklahoma City an IRS office remains dark. A notice on the window, crinkled after four weeks there, says the office is still closed.

The Department of Agriculture temporarily reopened 47 of its offices across Oklahoma on Thursday. They will remain open through Tuesday to help farmers and ranchers with existing loans and to provide tax documents. The offices have been closed and their employees furloughed due to the shutdown.

Mayor offers ideas at annual address ... Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt on Thursday proposed using money from MAPS 4 to create an endowment to tackle social issues like homelessness, mental illness and declining educational opportunities.

"Some of the priorities I'm hearing for MAPS 4 are really not solved by bricks and mortar," Holt said in his first State of the City address. "They're addressed by people and programs."

WATCH an interview with Holt following his State of the City address. 

Security breach went unreported ... The Oklahoma Department of Securities waited a month to report a massive data breach of sensitive information despite a state law that requires immediate notification of authorities.

A measure passed in 2013 requires state and local government agencies to make at least two notifications if personal data is accessed by unauthorized people: one to the state's chief information officer and another to people whose information was exposed.

The notification to affected individuals must be made without "unreasonable delay," the law says. Oklahoma's CIO must be told immediately.

Effort underway to expand sentencing reform ... Two Oklahoma City lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to make State Question 780 retroactive. If passed, the bill would affect thousands of criminal sentences.

The state question, which Oklahoma voters approved in 2016, reclassified certain drug and property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. It took effect July 1, 2017, but didn't apply retroactively.

House Bill 1269, coauthored by Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, would provide post-conviction relief to Oklahomans who were convicted before the state question passed but who would have been affected had it been in place.

Ag and energy info session held ... Organizations representing agriculture and energy organized a daylong briefing attended by nearly 40 freshman lawmakers about their industries and how they benefit the state.

During Tuesday's private event, they took turns making presentations, sprinkling in others from Oklahoma's new agriculture and energy secretaries, Secretary of State Michael Rogers and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell.

"It was a wonderful deal," said Steve Thompson, government relations director for American Farmers and Ranchers. "With this historically massive class of freshmen, we really wanted an opportunity to get to know them and wanted them to have an opportunity for them to get to know us."

Thanks for reading. Got questions, suggestions or complaints? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

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Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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