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Oklahoma judge sides with Drummond on dual office holding prohibition

Gentner Drummond became Oklahoma's Attorney General in 2023.
Abi Ruth Martin
Legislative Service Bureau
Gentner Drummond became Oklahoma's Attorney General in 2023.

A judge has sided with Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond in a dispute with the governor regarding whether cabinet secretaries can hold dual offices.

Gov. Kevin Stitt had argued that state law allows him to appoint cabinet secretaries from among his agency heads and that they can serve in dual capacities.

“Cabinet Secretaries are office holders or officers of the state of Oklahoma and are not excepted from the dual office holding prohibition under law,” wrote Oklahoma County District Judge Richard C. Ogden in a May 31 order.

The action came after Drummond issued a Feb. 28 opinion saying Tim Gatz could not hold three posts at once. At the time, he was serving as Stitt’s transportation secretary, and as head of both the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Gatz then resigned his cabinet post and was reappointed as the Oklahoma Department of Transportation executive director.

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell resigned as Stitt’s secretary of workforce development.

Stitt and three of his cabinet secretaries sued on March 7.

Secretary of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Shelley Zumwalt later withdrew from the lawsuit and from the cabinet.

Ogden rejected a part of Drummond’s opinion that said once an office holder accepts the duties of a second office, the first is vacated.

The judge disagreed, saying it wasn’t automatic.

A legal action would be needed to try the title to the office, the order said.

“Although the Governor is pleased the Court held that AG opinions cannot be used to remove agency directors or cabinet secretaries, we are disappointed that the Court otherwise felt confined to the AG’s analysis disrupting decades of precedent,” said Abegail Cave, a Stitt spokesperson. “The Governor is weighing his options.”

In March, Stitt vetoed a measure that attempted to clarify that the agricultural commissioner and a member of a higher education institution’s governing board could also serve as Cabinet secretaries.

At the time, Stitt said the measure was “duplicative and unnecessary.”

It would have allowed Blayne Arthur, who heads the state’s agricultural department and is a plaintiff in the case, and Susan Winchester, Stitt’s secretary of licensing and regulation, to serve in dual roles.

The attorney general is pleased the court affirmed his position, said Leslie Berger, a Drummond spokeswoman.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janelle Stecklein for questions: [email protected]. Follow Oklahoma Voice on Facebook and Twitter.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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