Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – In an interview, the Democrat seeking to become attorney general of Oklahoma took aim at the appointed Republican incumbent, Mike Hunter. A wide-ranging exchange with Mark Myles included his “fundamental criticism” – Hunter’s lack of qualifications for the job. He also questioned Hunter’s lack of full transparency on the Tar Creek audit and follow-up, a lack of transparency in the Opioid litigation, and other matters.
Myles is running on a platform which includes being a watchdog in the A.G.’s office, protecting Oklahomans from the threats to their lives and their livelihoods, advocating for better policies, a more open and transparent government which holds the public interest above special interests while holding special interests accountable, and, as he put it, “upholding the rule of law, supporting the constitutions, and ensuring the social justice component of treating everyone equally and fairly under the law.”
Protecting Oklahomans means threats from the criminal element must be addressed, he said, but threats from internet predators, consumer scammers, and threats to the land, air, water, and soil must not go unattended: “As I travel around the state, a consistent theme is that our water must be protected. A common theme running through the last two attorneys general is the environmental issues have a lesser importance and state’s rights under the 10th Amendment is more important. That approach is a threat to our environment.
“I have said I will not file frivolous lawsuits. Former Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado alleging that their marijuana laws were a threat to Oklahoma. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to entertain the notion. We won’t file lawsuits that are without merit.”
Asked to name examples of Hunter not doing his job, he pointed to the Tar Creek audit and investigation, stating a belief the state was defrauded under Pruitt. After replacing Pruitt, for whom he was a top adviser, Hunter still did not release Tar Creek details. Groups seeking the information had to file a new lawsuit.
Gary Jones said, “I guess he thought that might have been too complicated for people and those at the top of the Attorney General’s own office to understand,” and Myles concurs.
Myles makes some of the same points that Hunter’s GOP runoff opponent made: “He has never tried a case as a prosecutor or a defense attorney. By the way, that makes two attorneys general in a row of whom that is true. Is he capable of fulfilling the essential watchdog role of our elected officials?
“There is a prosecutorial function of the attorney general’s office. I say one has to be tough on crime, smart on crime, and know what a crime actually looks like. The process is not political. …It should be professional. Tar Creek merited more than a sweep under the carpet to determine whether crimes or conspiracies occurred because it cost the taxpayers $3.6 million after an original bid of $560,000.”
Opioids are a crisis in Oklahoma and the attorney general’s office has filed a lawsuit to go after opioid manufacturers. Myles says, “the opioid crisis should be treated as a public health crisis and not a public safety crisis. You cannot criminalize everything in the legal supply chain which means deputy sheriffs moonlighting as security guards should not be charged with conspiracy to distribute opioids while the attorney general’s office moves to seal the preliminary hearing transcripts. At the same time, there must be unrelenting pressure to go after the illegal drugs entering the state because that’s where people will go when their legal supply is cut off. The focus needs to be on prevention, recovery, and treatment while keeping a strong focus on interdiction. Congress just passed a law to do exactly that and I agree with that approach.
“Nearly 40 AGs offices around the country have requested that insurance companies review their policies for factors driving or contributing to the opioid crisis. Neither Pruitt nor Hunter (who worked for an insurance lobbying firm) wrote a letter. I will write that letter.”
Concerning the rape kit processing backlog, Myles was somewhat restrained, but reflected, “I do know the entire process has been extremely flawed. I’ve actually worked legal cases and know of two instances when the results from old kits were so inconclusive, flawed, that the alleged victim may not have gotten justice from the results. Part of the problem is money which highlights an issue. Criminal justice is a core function of government and should be fully funded from the general fund. I will advocate for that as Attorney General. That should fix the problem.”
Myles pointed to this reporter’s (thus far unsuccessful) efforts to get details about consultants in the Opioid litigation, commenting, “I agree the public has a right to know who the consultants were/are, and all information about those who were hired. It is my understanding that former Governor Keating might be involved, but that’s not possible to confirm at this point.”
He continued, “I am campaigning on the notion of transparency and open government. The attorney general’s office is responsible for ensuring that state agencies adhere to the open records and open meetings acts. That includes the A.G.’s office because the press and the public have a right to know.”
The challenger also believes some of Hunter’s actions have left undisturbed past errors in the office. Pointing to the litigation against Colorado over marijuana regulation, which faded from the news in recent months, he said, “I am not sure what Hunter’s posture is now that voters approved medical marijuana.”
Myles is not a fan of the Pruitt-Hunter lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency, where Pruitt was administrator for a few months before leaving under a cloud: “EPA exists to protect the environment. I know Mike Hunter is not advancing that cause. He has said, even bragged, he was Scott Pruitt’s right-hand man and counsel. He said that, not me. If you sue the EPA it seems it should be for the EPA not doing their job, rather than for doing their job.”
Summarizing what he says are criticisms of Hunter heard on the campaign trail, “For the average voter, what I hear is that people wonder if he’s doing the job that is needed at a watchdog agency. I think the answer is clearly no, and I believe additional things will ‘break’ in that regard during these last weeks of the fall campaign. I disagree with his use of the office primarily to advance himself.”
Myles says Hunter “has used his time in government to boost his campaign for an elected term first.” On the latter point, he continued, the incumbent “basically has a state-funded reelection endeavor with the Opioid Commission. It looks like he has three press releases from his state office each and every day. He holds lots of meetings that will benefit his election campaign. He did that through the primary, the runoff and the Opioid Commission meetings resume this fall to boost his election. … He finds a way to get on TV every day, it seems.”
Beyond Tar Creek (“in the end, a fiasco, disaster, debacle, however you want to characterize it”), he pointed to contentions that “a person at the Health Dept was fired for being a whistle-blower, for getting the word out on ways the agency was not doing the job, and that money was being used incorrectly. I know of one, and believe there are others.
“I disagree throughout his governance, with his lack of response to open records requests in matters where citizens or reporters like you should be able to get information. There is a case involving misuse of resources at a community college where a citizen/activist wanting information could not get it. So it looks like a pattern to me.”
This reporter and Myles attended Oklahoma State University decades ago, having enjoyable debates and often working together. He characterizes himself as “moderate, middle of the road on some issues, and as progressive as they come on others. I was that way when you and I were in Residents Hall Association (RHA) together, when I was president, all those years ago.
“I remember Henry Kissinger coming to Oklahoma — I think you were there? — and saying you have got to talk to the other side to make things happen. Certainly that’s what I learned when I took a class in Diplomacy in those days. And, like you, I remember [Ronald] Reagan and [Tip] O’Neill and how they worked together. I’m afraid that began to change with Newt Gingrich but I know that Democrats are not without fault. The current discourse is unfortunate, at best.”
Myles believes the job of attorney general “is to protect Oklahomans, and to uphold the rule of law.”
He continued, “If Gentner Drummond had won the Republican nomination, the mission would have been different than it is facing Hunter. The fact that Gentner came so close is a sign there is ambivalence among Republicans.
“I’d like to think that no one can buy the office. I want to represent all the people, in all the roles the A.G. plays. I believe my work background is diverse and fits the job much better than Hunter. I’ve been a private attorney, a prosecutor, a public defender. I’ve been in business and other work areas. I wasn’t appointed by Mary Fallin and I haven’t worked for advocacy groups in Washington, D.C.”
Born an “Army brat” as son of Major Maurice Myles and his wife Delores, his family lived at various posts until adopting Oklahoma as home in the 1960s. Like generations of Army people, the Myles family settled in Lawton.
After attending Lawton public schools and working at the Lawton Constitution newspaper, Myles went to OSU, becoming a well-known student leader. He worked in business (IBM) for two decades and also served as a Junior Achievement consultant teaching principles of economics and the free enterprise system to middle and high school students before heading to the University of Oklahoma law school.
After getting some polish at Oxford, a stint in pro bono work in New Orleans and other experience, he began working full-time in the law a decade ago, ultimately garnering admission to practice before the state Supreme Court and various federal courts.
Mark lives in Oklahoma City’s Mesta Park neighborhood with his wife Eva, a pediatrician turned attorney. Besides his part in raising four children, Mark has been a distance runner and active bicyclist. Additionally, he is a photographer who in past years occasionally took pictures for a fine community newspaper now known as The City Sentinel.