Oklahoma Youth Expo funding attacked in lawsuit
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2013
1/10/13 at 4:40 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A state legislator has filed suit against the Oklahoma Youth Expo and a long list of agencies and state officials - including Gov. Mary Fallin and top legislative leaders.
Rep. Mike Reynolds' taxpayer lawsuit seeks more than $7 million in damages and alleges state funds were given to the youth expo in violation of the state's Constitution and laws.
Reynolds' suit is filed in the name of the state - which would receive all the damages if the litigation is successful.
The heart of the dispute is more than $2.3 million the state Department of Agriculture gave to the youth expo, an annual Oklahoma City event billed as the world's largest junior livestock show.
Late in the legislative session last year, an agreement between Fallin and legislative leaders was fashioned to give the expo $2 million.
While legislation provided the money needed for the state Agriculture Department to make the payment, the state budget bill did not specifically authorize sending the money to the expo. Instead, the bill authorized spending money allocated to the department for legal purposes.
Agriculture Department officials have maintained throughout the conflict that contracting with the expo to run a youth livestock show is a legal policy that the state has continued for years and that the funding was clearly the intention of the governor and lawmakers.
Reynolds' suit alleges that the spending and associated actions violate the state Constitution in a variety of ways, including a constitutional ban on making gifts of public money.
In addition to the $2 million that was part of the state budget deal, the lawsuit reports that the state Agriculture Department made other payments to the youth expo totaling $342,750.
The Oklahoma County District Court lawsuit was filed Tuesday under a section of law that allows taxpayers to sue for triple damages for recovery of state money spent on unauthorized, illegal, fraudulent or voice contracts or agreements.
In addition to the youth expo and Fallin, defendants in the suit include the expo's executive director, six top leaders from last year's Legislature, state Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese, the members of the state Board of Agriculture, the state Department of Agriculture, state Treasurer Ken Miller, former Secretary of State Glenn Coffee and Carol McFarland, former interim director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise.
If the suit were successful, allocation of damages would be determined by the court, said Andrew Karim, Reynolds' attorney.
Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, previously filed a lawsuit containing many of the same allegations against the expo funding and demanding a full accounting of how the money was used. That suit is still pending in Oklahoma County District Court.
Original Print Headline: Funding for youth expo is targeted
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Rep. Mike Reynolds: His lawsuit against the youth expo is filed in the name of the state