Mental health board to investigate ghost worker allegation

Saturday, September 9th 2006, 10:39 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Directors of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services have agreed to hire an independent investigator to look into misconduct allegations against Deputy Commissioner Ben Brown.

But a spokeswoman for the department, Terri White, indicated the investigation will not move forward until ``the attorney general lets us know he is comfortable with us proceeding.''

In an Aug. 15 letter, Assistant Attorney General Joel-lyn McCormick asked Mental Health Commissioner Terry Cline to hold off on any internal investigation until the attorney general's multicounty grand jury unit can complete a criminal investigation into the complaint.

``We have conducted a preliminary inquiry and have begun a full investigation of this matter,'' the letter states. ``We understand and appreciate the need for your agency to conduct an internal investigation. We do not want to suggest that we are prohibiting an internal investigation. However, it is important to a criminal investigation that we be allowed to proceed prior to an internal investigation being conducted. For that reason, we are interested in expediting the investigative process as much as possible.''

Brown, a former state senator, is accused of pressuring the executive director of a nonprofit drug and alcohol recovery association into hiring state Senate Sergeant At Arms Bob Craig as a paid ghost employee.

Craig has denied being a ghost employee.

Donna Woods Bauer, executive director of the Oklahoma Citizen Advocates for Recovery and Treatment Association, made the accusation to The Oklahoman in mid-August.

Bauer also said her staff members have been victims of vandalism and burglary since mid-June when a complaint about Brown and Craig was made to the Department of Mental Health.

Brown was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 1.

The mental health department's board of directors voted unanimously Friday for a resolution to hire an independent investigator to prepare a ``comprehensive report dealing with the concerns reported.''

``On acceptance of the report by the board, the findings will be submitted to the commissioner for appropriate action,'' the resolution states.

The resolution sets no timetable for the investigation.