- Ada, Oklahoma


June 1, 2011

Ms. Barresi learning government is not business

JOPLIN, Mo. — —  

In America, the law is the law. It should contain no mixture of political influence in its interpreting or in its administering of justice. The skeptics among us may rightly say this is not always the case, particularly when the subjects under investigation enjoy high profile, powerful positions.

The opportunity for politics to play an ill-advised role in the legal process ratchets up even further when an attorney general elected under the auspices of one party is asked to rule on a legal question involving a high ranking government administrator elected from his same party.

To his credit, none of this was a factor in Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s review of newly elected State schools Superintendant Janet Barresi’s using private money to pay salaries of three high level state Education Department staff members she hired.

Pruitt’s opinion stated “A person cannot perform official duties of a state agency with compensation paid directly to them by a private person or entity,” according to The Oklahoman.

In other words, the law is the law.

Not that this should have come as news to Ms. Barresi. The Oklahoman quotes Tim Gilpin, a former Board of Education member as saying, “The board back in January, and myself personally, on the record and off the record, warned her that please don’t do this, it’s improper and it’s going to lay everybody open to liability. Finally some common sense is coming to the forefront. A Republican attorney general and his staff have come down squarely on the side of the law.”

This episode hints at our concern anytime someone whose background is business enters politics with the intention of running government like a business. It is not business. In business the chief executive has nearly complete control over outcomes with little direct oversight and little in the way of checks and balances.

Government plays by a much different set of bureaucratic rules, with checks and balances number one in the rule book.

— Loné Beasley


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