OSBI launches a criminal investigation into the Commissioners of the Land Office

Collaborator: The Frontier
Published: 07/13/2022, 1:37 PM

Written By: Reese Gorman

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal investigation into the Commissioners of the Land Office following a request from the Oklahoma County District Attorney.

Read this story on The Frontier here.

In a letter dated July 1, District Attorney David Prater asked the agency to investigate the Land Office after allegations surfaced of misappropriation of taxpayer funds, conflicts of interest and improper use of office by a state official. State Superintendent and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joy Hofmeister, one of five members of the Commissioners of the Land Office, called for the investigation after the Tulsa World reported the agency’s internal auditor was fired after she looked into a potential conflict of interest between agency head Elliot Chambers and Victorum Capital, a company hired to manage the agency’s direct investments.

“The Commissioners of the Land Office are aware of requests for an audit and investigation of the CLO,” said spokesperson David White. “Agency staff will fully cooperate with any audit or investigation initiated in response to those requests.”

Prater said he couldn’t provide additional information or comment further. 

Capt. Beth Green, a spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation, confirmed the investigation was active.

Prater also wrote that he has asked State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd to conduct a forensic audit of the Land Office. Byrd’s office did not immediately respond to The Frontier’s request for comment about the status of the audit. 

In June, Gov. Kevin Stitt asked Byrd to launch a financial and operational audit of the Commissioners Land Office. But Byrd, who is also a member of the commission, told the Tulsa World she could not conduct the audit because of the conflict of interest.

Chambers announced on June 30 that he plans to resign as Secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office in August. Stitt appointed Chambers in 2020 to lead the agency, which manages public lands and other assets to help fund public education in the state. 

Carly Atchison, spokeswoman for Stitt, said the governor’s office does not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Land Office investigation is the second criminal probe of a state agency to make headlines this year. 

The State Bureau of Investigation is also investigating the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department after allegations of financial mismanagement in connection with a contract with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to operate restaurants at state parks.

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