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Dept. of Health says allegations made by former CFO in resignation letter are 'false'

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH)

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says that allegations made by their former chief financial officer in his resignation letter are false.

The OSDH issued a statement Monday, four days after the resignation of former CFO Mike Romero. In his resignation letter Romero alleged that several conflicts of interest. He stated Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger was using the department's general counsel to "stay abreast" of the House Special Investigation Committees proceedings.

The department released the following statement on the allegations:

Over the past few weeks, OSDH Leadership has become aware of multiple concerns regarding our Chief Financial Officer Mike Romero’s administration of OSDH's Financial Services division. Specifically, we became aware of procurement delays, instances in which posting payments are 3-4 weeks delayed, and receivables and payables are not timely addressed. On January 26, 2018, OSDH was notified the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is terminating our ability to pay reimbursement costs for former OSDH employees who receive unemployment benefits. OSDH failed to pay approximately $26,343, including one invoice due as recently as November 27, 2017.

Information relevant to these and other significant issues was not being elevated by Mr. Romero to either the Interim Commissioner or others for review or action. As leadership began a dialogue with Mr. Romero to address these issues, he began reacting defensively and aggressively, as is evidenced by his January 28, 2018, response to Denise Northrup’s memo. The memo detailed the proper payroll processes OMES and OSDH Leadership, including Mr. Romero, had previously agreed upon. Mr. Romero's independent response to a memo addressed to Commissioner Doerflinger was shocking- never before had Romero voiced criticism of various agency personnel and projects. Because of this out of character response, Interim Commissioner Doerflinger asked Mr. Romero to meet with him in the Commissioner's office on Wednesday, January 31st. The purpose for the in person meeting was to gain an understanding of Romero's abrupt change in behavior and the issues with Mr. Romero’s management of the Financial Services division.

As detailed in his resignation letter, it was at this meeting Mr. Romero contends Interim Commissioner informed him that his allegations in his responsive memo did not coincide with the ‘testimony’ of another OSDH employee. Mr. Romero then alleges OSDH General Counsel, Julie Ezell, must have breached some sort of confidentiality in order for the Interim Commissioner to know the allegations in Mr. Romero’s memo were incorrect. This allegation is categorically false. Rather, multiple members of OSDH leadership were able to immediately identify the factual errors and inconsistencies in Mr. Romero’s responsive memo on the face of the document due to their knowledge of the OSDH payroll process and all of the relevant facts of the past few months. This information is known to multiple people in the agency by virtue of their job duties and as we work to correct errors made by the previous administration.

Interim Commissioner Doerflinger and Ms. Ezell are both very disappointed Mr. Romero made such unfounded and threatening accusations against them as they have both worked tirelessly to support Mr. Romero and the important work he has done at OSDH. Regardless of current circumstances, Mr. Romero played a key role in bringing to light financial problems at OSDH and the agency will always be better off because of his intervention.

The department also said they were disappointed in the chair of the House Investigation Committee, State Rep. Josh Cockroft.

"Chairman Cockroft was apparently eager to take as fact all of the allegations made by Mr. Romero against Interim Commissioner Doerflinger and OSDH General Counsel Julie Ezell, without any attempt to verify the accusations or engage Doerflinger and Ezell in dialogue." The department said.

Chief Operating Office Kim Bailey will oversee the OSDH Financial Services division in Romero's absence.

The incident comes amid the ongoing state House and FBI investigations into alleged misuse of federal funds at the department. The department has been under scrutiny in the past few months after it was revealed that furloughs the department were due to the mismanagement of funds. Romero was subpoenaed by the investigative committee and was slated to appear on Jan. 4 of this year, but was later postponed until Jan. 12.

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