OKLAHOMA CITY — A veterans’ organization has filed suit over Gov. Kevin Stitt’s new appointee to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission.
In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court, the Oklahoma Military Order of the Purple Heart and five of its members allege that Stitt did not follow the law in appointing Robert W. Allen Jr. to the panel.
The suit alleges that the appointment must come from a list of five names submitted by the Oklahoma Military Order of the Purple Heart, which did not occur.
The vacancy occurred when Stitt’s office notified Larry Wayne Van Schuyver, who was serving after being nominated by the group, that he was being removed from the panel that governs the seven veterans homes and hires the executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
Allen was unlawfully appointed without the consent of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the organization says. The five other plaintiffs in the lawsuit — who include Van Schuyver — were nominated by the organization to replace Van Schuyver, according to the suit.
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The governing board has nine members, all appointed by the governor, and members serve at the pleasure of the governor.
The governor can appoint three of the members at large. The other six seats, however, are to be represented by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the National Guard Association of Oklahoma.
The suit alleges that when a vacancy occurs in one of those six seats, Stitt is required to appoint a new member from among five nominees submitted by the organization that holds the seat — in this case, the Order of the Purple Heart.
“While Mr. Allen is believed to be a purple heart recipient, he has not been active in any of the Oklahoma chapters of the Order of the Purple Heart,” and the organization did not nominate him, the suit says.
The plaintiffs want the court to declare that Allen is not qualified for the appointment.
They want a declaration that the position for the Oklahoma Military Order of the Purple Heart is vacant and open for a proper appointment.
Additionally, they are seeking a restraining order to prevent Allen from acting as a commissioner.
Kate Vesper, a Stitt spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Van Schuyver and Paul D. Costilow sued Stitt in federal court, alleging that he removed them from the Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Commission in retribution for their support of Joel Kintsel, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, who made a failed attempt to unseat Stitt in the Republican primary for governor.
The Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Commission had given Kintsel a leave of absence to run for office.
That suit alleges that Stitt violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Other members who voted for Knitsel’s leave also have been removed from the panel.