Oklahoma "Ethics" Bend to Pay Raises

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission pushed for additional funds to increase work space, increase staff by three, and buy supplies. They even considered a lawsuit against the State. The State forked over $150,000.00 of which $90,000.00 went to pay raises

A recent pay raise for the Oklahoma Ethics Commission members is receiving a lot of attention in the State. The Commission sought funds to increase staffing. When only $150,000.00 was allotted, new hires were out of the question, so the Commission gave themselves a 30% raise instead – amounting to $90,000.00 of the increased monies.

Don Bingham, Ethics Commission chairman, defended the raises:

…the agency’s seven-member staff has been overworked for years. The commission considered suing the Legislature, stating that the watchdog agency has been so drastically underfunded for more than a decade that it cannot carry out its constitutional duties.

The Ethics Commission, which oversees the campaign activities of elected officials, had considered a lawsuit against the State. Tensions between the two entities are often strained.

State Representative Gus Blackwell said he was “flabbergasted” by the raises.

The Ethics Commission had requested three more staff members, but legislative leaders said they weren’t convinced its workload justified the increase.

Attorney Marilyn Hughes, Ethics Commission Executive Director said that because new staff was not authorized:

…the agency was limited on what it could do with the increased funding.

The Tulsa World reports that Hughes’ salary is currently $110,242.00, boosted from last year’s $84,802.00.

Representative Blackwell commented that the Commission would have been “wise” to hold back some of the funds until next year, when the Legislature might possibly increase funding to add one new investigator.

According to State Representative Lucky Lammons, who supported additional funding for the Commission, the pay raises will likely negatively affect any additional funding next year:

…fellow lawmakers will have a hard time giving the agency more money next year.
It appears to be disingenuous on their [the Ethics Commission] part, he said.

Most Oklahoma State employees’ salaries stayed stagnant this year. Judges and district attorneys did received a five percent increase.