The Oklahoma House of Representatives reversed itself Wednesday on a bill it defeated 48-44 on Monday. The new vote approves modifications of the requirements to become the head of the state Department of Corrections.
Under the bill’s language, the agency director no longer needs a master’s degree or five years experience in corrections. The changes make the Department of Corrections’ current Interim Director Joe Allbaugh eligible.
The bill’s House author state Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, said on the House floor Monday he feels the current law has not attracted capable leaders for the agency in the past.
“It looks to me like maybe we don’t have the right qualifications set in on current law because we’ve had problems with directors that fit the current law but did a lousy job running the Department of Corrections,” Ownbey said.
Ownbey was referring to Robert Patton, the agency’s former director who announced his resignation in December after multiple execution missteps. Patton carried years of experience in the corrections field.
Prior to accepting the interim director position at DOC, Allbaugh had never worked in corrections or criminal justice. He holds a bachelor’s degree, not a master’s, but Ownbey believes Allbaugh is the “right guy” for the job.
“This interim director is qualified. He will do, in my view, a wonderful job, a great job. He will make the tough decisions that won’t be made, frankly, by what you would call ‘qualified’ directors but frankly need to be made,” Ownbey said.
In the past, Allbaugh has said the agency needs a “manager,” not someone with previous corrections experience.
Allbaugh has years of management practice. He previously worked as the campaign manager for George W. Bush’s campaign for Texas governor and served as Bush’s chief of staff after a successful election. Later, Allbaugh managed Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. The Oklahoma native also acted as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2001-2003 and formed Allbaugh International Group LLC, an international security-consulting group.
The bill now goes to the governor's desk.