Democrat Activist Claims Costello’s Tulsa Office Closure Motives Suspect

The president of Oklahoma State Democrat Veterans, longtime party activist and blogger Calvin Rees,  says that he’s obtained an audio tape in which Labor Commissioner Mark Costello is heard to tell employees they should be happy that he closed the Tulsa office and is offering buyouts for 21 merit protected positions. Rees said Costello blamed the Oklahoma Legislature for his action.

Rees said he started fielding calls from Tulsa veterans and disgruntled Labor Department employees on Wednesday who are unhappy about the office closing.

In an audio tape given to Rees, Costello tried to defend a question from an employee who questioned the study that he and his staff provided to the Tulsa press corps where he claimed only 7 people utilized the Tulsa labor office weekly. Costello said the study was over a period of one month.

“In fact, there was not a study even done. After talking to Oklahoma City and Tulsa employees, I was told that Costello and his staff actually took a sign in sheet for one week that showed the least amount of walk-ins,” Rees stated.

Rees plans on asking for an open records request of the so-called study as well as raises given to administrators prior to the closure of the Tulsa office. Rees also said that he was told that Costello’s press secretary purchased over $30,000 worth of computers, video, software, and audio equipment prior to the closure. “It’s hard to justify that you are closing an office to save taxpayers money when you go on a spending spree and give out huge raises to top administrators and attorneys.”

Rees claims that several legislators are also looking into possible allegations of bribes taking place to force employees to give up their merit protected positions.

“I was contacted by several Labor Department employees who informed me that two Directors were approached by the Commissioner and his staff to consider giving up their merit protected positions in exchange for huge raises,” said Rees. The merit protected employees called into question are the Directors of the OSHA and Statistical Research divisions, he claims, adding that both directors currently qualify for retirement benefits and received large raises last year amid speculation of deep cuts on the state and federal level.

Rees said he turned over his information to Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones to request an audit of the State Department of Labor and to get the State Attorney General involved to investigate the possible use of bribes with taxpayer’s monies. Rees also plans to contact the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office.

Four of the eleven positions eliminated at the Tulsa office did not receive any federal funding. Those four positions were responsible for taking wage and hour claims, licensing, and workers comp enforcement.

“Commissioner Costello was being dishonest to his workers when he said it was due to federal funding cuts. I was told from a Tulsa employee that Commissioner Costello and his staff begin contacting Tulsa building managers over 3 months ago and informed them that the lease would not be renewed. This was before any sequester cuts were determined or put in place. Point blank, Costello was going to close the Tulsa Office no matter what the excuse was or what lie he put forth as justification to his employees,” said Rees.

Rees was also told by several employees that the former CFO was terminated last year amid allegations of mismanagement of funds and raises given to key administrators. “Essentially, it was a complete mismanagement of taxpayer funds where more money was going out than coming in.”

For more information:
Calvin Rees


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