Patrick B. McGuigan
Before beginning their final week of business at the state Capitol, Republican legislative leaders announced the hiring of former state Rep. Mike Jackson as executive director of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT).
In a press release, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, named the former House Speaker Pro Temp (2013-2014) to the post, created through 2019 legislation.
Despite Jackson’s legislative experience and fiscal conservative record, the announcement drew some criticism from legislative Democrats serving on the LOFT Oversight Committee.
“The Legislature is incredibly focused on ensuring transparency and accountability in the expenditure of taxpayer dollars and LOFT will greatly aid in our efforts,” McCall said in the formal announcement.
“As a former legislator, Mike Jackson understands how our government works – and sometimes doesn’t work – and knows the right questions to ask as we track the expenditure of taxpayer dollars and institute metrics to measure the effectiveness of state programs and services.”
A Republican, Jackson represented Enid during his 10-year tenure in the Legislature.
Most recently, he has been executive vice president of government and political affairs at the State Chamber of Oklahoma.
“LOFT will provide the public and the Legislature with objective data and will be a game-changer in our efforts to provide increased oversight and accountability in how our tax dollars are spent,” said Pro Tem Treat, creator of the LOFT idea in Oklahoma.
“Having served in the Legislature, Mike has a familiarity with state government and can lead the LOFT team to dig into the numbers, and his private-sector experience will help him manage the small LOFT team efficiently and effectively,” Treat added.
Jackson, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, said in a statement, “I look forward to working with the Oversight Committee and legislative leaders to ensure Oklahomans’ hard-earned tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently.”
CapitolBeatOK designated Treat’s announcement of the LOFT concept as one of the top 15 stories in Oklahoma state government for the year 2018. After legislation creating the office was put in place, this reporter said the LOFT concept fed “hopes for substantive, recurring and methodical investigations (examinations might be a less confrontational word) of government agencies.”
Senators Julia Kirt and Michael Brooks, Oklahoma City Democrats serving on the LOFT Oversight panel, were joined by House Democrats Cyndi Munson of Oklahoma City and Meloyde Blancett of Tulsa in a statement critical of Jackson’s designation.
In a press release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, the quartet said, “We are disappointed by the process used to hire the new director of the Legislative Office for Fiscal Transparency (LOFT). The objective of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency was to provide openness and transparency. This vote … to hire a director and the process by which this was brought forth was nothing close to transparent, which begs the question of how effective LOFT will be if this is the way we conduct our actions.
“There should have been a more transparent process for hiring the director of a new taxpayer-funded office launched to focus on transparency. The candidate selected was not one of the original applicants for the position. As members of the LOFT Oversight Committee, we were previously told we would have input in the vetting of candidates for the director position and on who was selected after the interview process. That is not what happened. Moving forward, the work of LOFT and the LOFT Oversight committee must be conducted with more openness, public participation and accountability.”
In a news story, Ray Carter of the Center for Independent Journalism reported the oversight panel must :do an annual performance evaluation and make a recommendation on whether to retain the director. The LOFT director cannot be retained without the support of both legislative leaders and the support of a majority of the oversight committee’s members.:
Carter also reported the salary for positions similar to Jackson’s runs from “ $115,000 to $124,000.”
The Legislature adjourned the regular session late Friday (May 15).