The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 24, 2012

Local legislators have mixed views on lawsuit

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid legislators hold divergent views on both state money given to Oklahoma Youth Expo and on a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court last month because of the money.

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said although he disagrees with the Department of Agriculture appropriating $2 million for Youth Expo, the lawsuit filed by Mike Reynolds and Mike Ritze is not the way to handle it.

“I don’t know what they’re going to accomplish with the lawsuit,” Anderson said.

Anderson said his understanding of the scenario is the money already has been paid out, so a lawsuit will not bring it back. He points instead to a better way to handle the matter.

“I think at this point in time, the most appropriate thing to do is take measures to keep this from happening in the future,” Anderson said.

The legislature will go back into session in two months.

“This issue will be addressed quicker in the legislature than it will be addressed in the courtroom,” Anderson said.

In Anderson’s view, state dollars should not be used to fund a private endeavor.

“We shouldn’t be appropriating $2 million to a private entity, a private livestock show,” Anderson said.

Anderson speculates the lawsuit might bring needed information to light.

“I think there are questions to be answered as to what this money is being spent on, and perhaps that will happen with the lawsuit,” Anderson noted.

Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said he has no dispute with the Department of Agriculture giving $2 million to Youth Expo.

“Youth Expo is something that needs to be around,” Enns said. “It’s good for the youth of Oklahoma and it’s something I consider education.”

On the lawsuit itself, Enns was blunt.

“I personally don’t think they have a case,” Enns said.

The money was under the Ag Department, and Youth Expo is an agriculture endeavor, Enns said.

Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, agrees with Anderson the legislature should look at the manner in which appropriations are being done.

“We need to make sure we are very transparent in terms of what we spend and allowing all the membership in having a voice along the way,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he voted in favor of the appropriations bill, but there was little discussion of the $2 million for Youth Expo.

“I haven’t read all the paperwork in terms of the lawsuit,” Jackson said. “I don’t know how much of a case there is for the lawsuit.”

Jackson said he does not oppose the Youth Expo in principle, but does not know what the need was or why Youth Expo was asking for funds.

“As a youth, I participated in the Youth Expo and believe it is a valuable thing for the state of Oklahoma,” Jackson said.

It’s spending that is not properly vetted Jackson objects to.

“As we move forward, we need to make sure we are as transparent as possible in all funds expended,” Jackson said.