Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Democratic Leader Scott Inman today (Friday, December 23) delivered a three-page letter to Republican House Speaker-elect Charles McCall that includes 21 questions demanding details about the payment of $45,000 to settle a sexual harassment case against state Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa.
Inman, a Del City Democrat, asked McCall, an Atoka Republican, to provide answers concerning the payment.
Inman also said McCall should name a legislative panel and seek outside counsel to investigate the use of House resources in the matter.
News of the payment broke this week in stories by Nolan Clay, an investigative reporter for the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In subsequent reporting, News9 (KWTV) disclosed that payment to Hollie Anne Bishop, the former legislative assistant who filed a complaint against Kirby, resulted form an invoice marked “Legal Settlements” but filed under housekeeping and cleaning supplies in state House accounting.
Bishop was fired from her state House position 13 months ago, on November 20, 2015. She submitted a written demand for compensation in January 2016. Payment to Bishop were made on November 22, 2016 – two weeks after the November 8 election, in which Kirby was reelected. The payment was processed just days before the last term of Former Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, ended.
In his letter to incoming Speaker McCall, Minority Leader Inman asked that the new House lader “promptly provide the answers to the following questions” –
1) When did the alleged conduct occur and for what duration?
2) Prior to the filing of a complaint, was the conduct ever brought to the attention of House Leadership or legal staff? If so, when?
3) Did the House of Representatives ever attempt to resolve the matter by relocating Ms. Bishop to another office or member?
4) Was Rep. Kirby the only State Representative involved in the alleged misconduct?
5) To what end, if any, was Rep. Randy Grau involved with the matter and/or the legislative assistant?
6) Did the House of Representatives initiate an independent investigation into the matter? If so, when and by whom was it authorized? If not, why not? And who made that decision?
7) If an investigation was initiated, what were the ultimate findings?
8) Was this matter ever submitted to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for investigation?
9) Who negotiated the settlement agreement on behalf of the Oklahoma House and at whose request?
10) By what legal authority was such a payment justified?
11) Please provide a detailed accounting of the costs and fees incurred by the House of Representatives because of this matter and paid to outside counsel, Courtney Warmington.
12) Why was outside counsel utilized for this personnel matter instead of using the services of our House general counsel?
13) Under what budgetary line item can those payments to Courtney Warmington be found?
14) Please explain the justification behind allocating more than $16,000 of legal payments to Ms. Bishop’s attorneys under the budgetary line item of housekeeping and cleaning supplies.
15) By what legal authority can the House of Representatives indemnify Rep. Kirby for his alleged misconduct outside the scope of his authority?
16) Assuming the House of Representatives would not have used taxpayer funds to pay a baseless claim against a member of the Republican caucus, has any course of disciplinary action been taken against Rep. Kirby in the form of sanctions, censure, removal, or impeachment? If not, are any such actions under consideration?
17) Has Rep. Kirby been asked to repay the Oklahoma taxpayers for the costs they have incurred because of his alleged misconduct outside the scope of his authority?
18) If a reservation of rights letter has been issued to Rep. Kirby, would you please provide a copy of it to my office?
19) Please provide a copy of any tort claim received by the House of Representatives.
20) Please provide a copy of any statement concerning these allegations provided to the House of Representatives by Ms. Bishop.
21) Have any other allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment been brought by members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives staff against sitting or former members of the legislature at any time in the last twelve years?
In response to question from The City Sentinel during a Capitol press conference, Speaker Inman declined to join calls by the state Democratic Party and two Republican House members for Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister to resign after she was charged with felony ethics violations during her 2014 campaign.
While pressing aggressively for details about the $45,000 payment, Inman stopped short of calling for Kirby’s resignation.
In dialogue with The City Sentinel, Inman commended as a model for McCall a bipartisan legislative panel created by former Republican House Speaker Kris Steele of Shawnee. That panel, guided by outside counsel Andy Lester, a prominent Edmond attorney, studied allegations of legislative misbehavior by Randy Terrill, a member of the House, who was ultimately convicted of bribery in a widely publicized case. Inman said Steele’s approach was a constructive one.
Joining Inman at the discussion with reporters was state Rep. George Young of Oklahoma City and Rep. David Perryman of Chickasha, Inman’s partners in House Democratic leadership. In response to a question from The City Sentinel, Perryman said recent events help make the case for legislative processes to come under the state’s open record and open meeting laws. The three Democrats agreed the House, like other private and public sector employers, should consider mandatory training for members and staff on prevention of sexual harassment.
Inman said he knew of no incidents “rising to the level” of a cash payment to settle a claim of harassment by a member of the Legislature.
Perryman and Inman made the case that if Kirby’s alleged behavior fell outside the scope of his legislative duties, he should repay to the House the expense incurred in the settlement.
Inman also called for an audit of House finances from State Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones.
Inman said he considered McCall a friend and believes the new Speaker had no knowledge of the payment related to the allegations against Kirby.