Truth Test: Oklahoma Auditor Race Heats Up

Monday, October 18th 2010, 11:31 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashili Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Two weeks before election day and the race to be Oklahoma's next chief auditor goes negative. Incumbent Steve Burrage is going after his challenger's tax record. But do his accusations add up?

Challenger Gary Jones has run for state auditor in the last two election cycles. Incumbent Steve Burrage wants to make this his third loss in a row.

AD: "We can't trust Gary Jones to be state auditor. IRS tax liens against his business for repeated failure to pay..."

It's true Gary Jones has had five tax liens filed against his company, OTT Business Systems.

Two federal in 1992 and 1996. And three state... in 1991 and 1992. The tax bill adds up to almost $33,000.

Gary Jones admits after more than 28 years in business, some clerical errors were made. "I paid every single penny... including penalties and interest," he said.

But he also adds he "paid every single penny, including penalties and interest," a long time ago, even going without a salary to keep his business afloat.

AD: "Tossed out of office after making criminal charges against innocent hospital trustees..."

Jones wasn't really tossed out of office, but he was voted out, losing his Commanche County commissioner seat in 1998 by less than 500 votes.

Jones claims Commanche County Memorial hospital administrators were wasting taxpayer money and he says a state audit and a grand jury backed him up.

But it's true embezzlement charges against hospital administrators were eventually dropped.

AD: "and when he lost an election Jones actually sued his opponent for the mental anguish of losing."

Now that doesn't tell the whole story. The election loss was a 2002 bid for state auditor. The opponent was Jeff McMahan, the former state auditor who's now serving time in federal prison for bribery charges.

Jones filed a lawsuit claiming McMahan took $150,000 in illegal contributions and "stole" the election. He's suing for fraud and racketeering, in addition to mental anguish.

Last week's Sooner Poll had challenger Gary Jones ahead of incumbent Steve Burrage by 6 ½ points. But that poll also had 24 percent voters in the undecided column.