Stitt’s “Yes Man” got a new car to lead Oklahoma Dept of Health…

This Is Public Health.”

This slogan for the Oklahoma State Department of Health projects assurance and confidence that the organization knows what the hell it’s doing, which is probably something you want in a state-run agency tasked with keeping data on the spread of contagious illnesses and overseeing community health departments that provide life-saving immunizations, wellness services, and other resources for Oklahomans.

But, unfortunately, since Commissioner of Health Gary Cox was appointed by our esteemed Governor, the slogan has come to be seen at best as a motto for arrogant, out-of-touch optimism and at worst a cruel joke accompanied by an apathetic shrug.

Via The Oklahoman…

Weeks before a novel coronavirus began killing people first in China and then around the world, the new health commissioner for Oklahoma stunned legislators by asking them for less money for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We want to get to be a lean organization,” Gary Cox said on Dec. 2 in explaining his request for a $4.5 million reduction in appropriations for the 2021 fiscal year. “We’re trying to be frugal.”

I don’t blame old Gary for wanting to take a no-nonsense approach to the Health Department’s finances. Two years ago the agency was audited and found to have so poorly mismanaged its money that it unnecessarily laid off 200 people. He’s obviously leading by example, right?

At the same time, he was seeking to buy a new SUV for himself for his trips around the state for the Health Department, records show.

“The Commissioner does not want the 2020 Ford Police Interceptor, he would like to have the 2020 Ford Explorer,” a Health Department employee wrote in a Dec. 30 email…

The Health Department in November paid $7,949 for 24 chairs for the commissioner’s office, his conference area and a third-floor conference room, according to a purchase order. The chair described on paperwork as “For Gary” has a gas lift and cost $453.

In all fairness to Dr. Cox… wait… the guy leading our health department is not doctor. Let me start over.

In all fairness to Mr. Cox, the first thing any wise person will do when they get a new job is ask for a company car and better office furniture. Plus, when Cox requested the reduction in funds, who would have known that the worst goddang pandemic in over 100 years would’ve been merely weeks away.

That being said, we can blame Gary for trying to run the Oklahoma Department of Health like a business, and not a government agency to better serve Oklahomans.

In wanting to “appear” as though he is a great, fiscally conservative leader, he appeared to have cut funding to kiss Stitt’s ass maintain the status quo instead of reinvesting it (with accountability and responsibility) and expanding much-needed community health services. There are currently 7 counties in Oklahoma without health departments, 6 of which are in Western Oklahoman. I’m not bitter about that at all, but after dropping damn near $8,000 of dollars on 24 chairs, it seems like it’s more important for Cox to finance his aesthetic than his agency.

But this isn’t the first time Cox has been criticized…

How long Cox remains commissioner is up in the air. Legislators would have to agree to a proposed change in the law for him to continue and the Senate would have to confirm him.

He faced public criticism in March over the testing of Utah Jazz players for COVID-19 at a time few test kits were available. He faced internal unrest over his initial insistence that even clerical Health Department employees come to work at the same time the public was being urged to stay at home.

But it wasn’t some millennial blogger who seemed to disagree with how the Department of Health was handling COVID-19. Former State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed was known as a “straight talking” man when it came to coronavirus information and recommendations, who spoke out against the shortage of COVID-19 tests and warned Oklahoma businesses as early as March 12th to start planning to implement work-from-home protocols and loosening sick leave policies. This appeared to go against Stitt’s “business as usual” approach to the pandemic and how Cox himself was running the Department of Health. In a press release that refers to Oklahomans as “stakeholders,” the Oklahoma Department of Health announced on March 19th that the Burnsed was reassigned and replaced with someone Stitt seems to get along with better during press conferences.

I hope it doesn’t take the deaths of hundreds of Oklahomans for our leaders begin to realize that state health departments can’t be run like businesses and be effective at the same time. Being that he doesn’t have the educational requirements for his position as head of the Department of Health, Cox either didn’t realize how detrimental it can be to cut funding and replace an experienced head epidemiologist during a pandemic or he knows he has to kiss Stitt’s ass to keep his job.

Whew. Follow Hayley on twitter @squirrellygeek

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27 Responses

  1. And the solution?
    This is Oklahoma.
    This is it.

  2. He is a doctor. Not a medical doctor. But he does have a JD. I understand that might confuse someone.

    1. When was the last time you heard someone with a JD (law degree) referred to as “Doctor”? I’m guessing never.

  3. But only a-holes use the title Doctor with a JD.

  4. Senile, unqualified, incompetent, lips firmly attached to Stitt’s butt, drug all his cronies from his previous post, ignored all the experts already in the health dept. he checks all the boxes for the guv. AKA Jethro Trump

  5. Cox sounds like one of the worst political appointments since Scott Pruitt was named EPA Administrator. And like Pruitt, Cox prefers outfitting his transportation and his office to spending money on the actual purpose of his agency.

    Folks, this is what “smaller government” looks like, Oklahoma style. Is it what you voted for?

    It’s also a reminder that “running government like a business” is the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas. Businesses exist to make profits. Period. Full stop. Government exists solely to provide services to and for its citizens, although we expect those services to be provided efficiently and economically, minimizing extravagance and waste.

    And yes, the beneficiaries of government services are CITIZENS, not “stakeholders.” The latter is an unfortunate term from corporate-speak.

    Speaking of “running government like a business,” is it common practice in the business world for a new department head to buy himself a 2020 Ford Explorer and $8,000 worth of new chairs while bragging about cutting his department’s budget? I don’t think so.

    What is a “gas lift” for a chair? Does it have something to do with flatulence?

    1. Agree..with all of this!

    2. A gas lift simply refers to a pneumatic device that allows the chair to go up or down via pushing a lever. It is common in even the cheapest of adjustable chairs.

      Also, $8k for 24 commercial-grade office chairs is not unreasonable at all. I’m not talking about the “furniture” you buy at a big-box store.
      You can get a flimsy chair for less than that but you’ll be replacing it in less than 2 years.

      really good (not the best) quality office chairs are usually over $400 a piece.

      but let’s all be outraged about that which we have little knowledge.

      1. So did the outgoing commissioner take the 24 commercial-grade office chairs with him when he left so they had to be replaced?

      2. The chairs were fine. It was an unnecessary purchase & that’s the point.

      3. When we need new chairs down at OU, we go to the property control warehouse and hunt amongst the WWII relics for something that has all its wheels.

        1. The last set of chairs we got this way from surplus all matched, but none of their gas lifts worked so they all sat 16 inches off the ground. Hilarity ensued for students and researchers alike, but that’s life at a public university!

    3. Chairs with gas lifts are more expensive. They need all that gas in the hydraulics of the office chair yo lift the far added that sit in them all day

  6. FYI it is very common for directors of public health to not be medical doctors. It is an academic course of study at most major universities.

    1. FYI, he does not hold a degree in hospital administration either. So what’s your point. He is not qualified to run the Department of Health at Disneyland let alone Oklahoma.

    2. What part of “does not meet educational REQUIREMENTS” do you not understand?

  7. Could it possibly be a case of Scott Pruitt Junior?

  8. Bottom line is he does not meet the educational qualification for the position. The Legislature will have to change the qualifications for him if they want him to keep the job. Not sure why they would set a minimum qualification and then just ignore it, but possibly nobody with any sense and education was interested in the position.

    The fact that this guy isn’t qualified for the position is more offensive than the small amount he spent on office furniture, but people seem to be dwelling on that more. That is probably a good thing for this guy, as that is much easier to defend than not having the minimum education for the position.

    With luck the Senate will not confirm him to the position, and Governor Jethro can find yet another unqualified person to head up one of the largest agencies in the state. Something tells me he will still get paid or maybe just reassigned to some other plum gig.

    Imagine That!

  9. Ole Governor Jethro dug a up a winner in this jewel. Having years to study at Tulsa and OKC health departments he is by far better educated to lead the state than any sort of medical doctor could ever be.

    New chairs and a SUV should be the bare minimum of perks for this genius. Surely an office remodel and country club membership should be in store for this fiscal minded wonder.
    We as a state are again the lucky recipients.
    He has grabbed the pandemic right by the ass and taken charge. There is more than gas in his new chair. Undoubtedly there are obviously some smelly piles of residue there as well.

  10. There is a lot more than gas sitting in that chair. A whole it of smelly residue is occupying it as well.
    Good ole Gov Jethro hit another home run with this jewel. Why would one even consider a medical type for that position?

  11. The new CFO is requiring staff to continue coming into the office instead of offering administrative leave until those employees receive the necessary equipment to telework. As of today, April 13th, those employees are still forced to come into the office or use their earned leave because they still have not been provided the needed equipment to telework. In addition the CFO is trying to “clean house” for Cox during this time of pandemic chaos. This CFO worked for Cox at OK City County Health Department and is one of many that Cox has hired at OSDH who has no state government experience. Cox is hiring many of his former OKCCHD employees who have no knowledge of state purchasing laws and are contracting with vendors outside state laws.

  12. The arrogance of ignorance knows no bounds.

  13. Y’all know he named a building after himself while he was still at the County Health Dept., right?

    1. That defines the “Oklahoma Standard” I guess Governor Jethro figured if he had a building named after him then he must be a great candidate to work for the state.

      Naming public buildings for agency employees should be forbidden, or at minimum there should be a ten year waiting period after their death. After ten years it is generally obvious if the state benefited more from that employee than the other way around.

      1. Thelma Parks Elementary in OKC was named after her and she wasn’t even dead! She was still on the School Board . So this did set a precedent. Egoism is here too.

  14. Mr Cox does not act like he is working to improve public health , instead he works to improve himself by being the “Yes man”to Stitt. My wife works for the agency, ever since he took office all he has done is to fire people and replace them with his friends from the OKC County Health Dept. You only need to check the Organizational Chart that gets updated every week. Every one of the top positions are now occupied by hs friends or his “Yes men”.
    And look at how he is managing the Pandemic. An agency which should be championing the prevention of this disaster it seems all Mr Cox is doing is say what the Governor wants said
    The State Health department seems to be cursed to have such corrupt people run the agency

  15. Of course the purchase of the car has been rescinded, making for smooth sailing to change the requirements to hold the position (the bill may have already cleared the house) and of course the wheels (no pun intended) are greased in the senate to confirm the appointment. Following perfectly the formula after getting caught which is: (1) Change the story line on the purchase in the first place; (2). Be contrite; (3). Blame an underling; (4) Hunker down and don’t talk to the press; (5) Get mad; (6) Wait for the summer and get even.

    Works almost every time. Only extremely arrogant and stupid agency heads fail if they follow the scheme outlined above so expect this one to be an example of just such failure. Probably will get caught only because he requests an upgrade to a Pontiac Firebird in the fall.

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