OKLAHOMA CITY — The head of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs said he has paid the agency’s bills after determining that an executive order was unlawful.
Earlier this week, Joel Kintsel, the department’s executive director, sent lawmakers a memo saying Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet secretary for military affairs, John Nash, had refused to sign off on some expenditures.
Stitt earlier had signed an executive order requiring nonemergency purchases that exceed $25,000 to be signed off on by the Cabinet secretary.
Kintsel said Nash’s refusal to sign off on the purchases was in retaliation for Kintsel’s run for governor. Stitt defeated Kintsel in the Republican primary.
Kintsel told lawmakers that the additional step required by the governor’s executive order was illegal and that without the secretary’s approval, the agency would not be able to provide basic supplies and resources for the veterans under its care.
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He therefore sent the bills in question to be processed and paid.
Carly Atchison, a spokeswoman for Stitt, said: “The executive order makes it clear that secretary approval is required for non-emergency purchases only. The director has always had the authority to make emergency purchases.”
She said the purchases in question would qualify as emergency purchases.
Kintsel disagreed, saying they were nonemergency purchases.
The purchases in question include $558,284.36 for licensing medical and financial software used at the seven centers; $156,336 for the annual lease payment for the central office; $56,700 in tuition payments for employee educational expenses related to employment; $35,280 for software licensing for vital signs equipment at the veterans centers; $29,930 for equipment at the Ardmore Veterans Cemetery; and $27,500 for the final inspection of the Ardmore Veterans Cemetery.
“If the director is sincere in his belief that the expenses at issue are necessary ‘to provide the basic supplies and resources needed to operate the agency,’ he, as the director, could have simply notified the secretary of the nature of the expenses and moved forward with purchases, and if he believes the EO is an overreach, he could always choose to not comply,” Atchison said.
“Regardless, we would hope he is not neglecting his duty to provide for the basic functions of the agency to care for veterans.”
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