NewsOn6.com & Emily Baucum, News On 6
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Seven Oklahoma state parks that were supposed to shut down this fall because of budget cuts will remain open.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says handing over management of several parks saved the state $700,000.
Several cities and tribal governments will take over management of all seven parks.
That means people who work the parks will be relocated and some of them aren't happy about it.
In a statement, the Director of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says "Not a single employee was laid off; each one was offered the same position and the same salary at another state park where we had an opening."
Court documents show employees who work at those facilities were hand-delivered letters that revealed each worker's new work assignment, starting this Tuesday, August 16th.
The letter says "Failure to report for duty.... may result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge."
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association says seven state park employees came forward with complaints.
"We've got folks that have lived in that community for 25, 30 years and they don't want to relocate to another park facility," Sterling Zearley, with OPEA, said.
OPEA says transferring to different state parks would put "undue hardship" on those workers "because of increased commuting time."
"That employee has to make a decision whether to relocate, retire or quit." Zearley said. "So basically you just quit without getting a severance package."
OPEA says that's against state law and filed an emergency motion to stop the transfers. An Oklahoma County district court judge denied it.
"Really I don't think he had enough information. He wanted to halt it and go to a full-blown hearing," Zearley said.
The judge gave both OPEA and the Tourism Department more time to prepare their cases.
The Tourism Department's director applauded the judge's decision saying "Every dollar we have to spend defending against a lawsuit is a dollar that can't go to support tourism and recreation in Oklahoma."