Black money allegations impact race for Oklahoma State listeners

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Black money accusations have hit the state auditor’s race.

Oklahoma State Auditor Cindy Byrd is the only opponent in her bid for re-election on June 28e the primary is Steven McQuillen; Byrd says his campaign could be a reward for his audit of Epic charter schools.

In 2018, Cindy Byrd spent about $140,000 to become a state auditor and inspector, an elected official responsible for auditing and setting accounting standards for all government agencies and county treasurers in Oklahoma.

Past and recent auditors have all been Certified Public Accountants (CPA).

In 2020, Auditor Byrd released the results of a detailed statewide audit of Epic charter schools in response to rumors of misuse of taxpayer funds and other financial mismanagement, including a mix of funds.

Byrd put a price on the waste: $20 million; fraud is also at the center of a criminal investigation.

Epic founders Ben Harris and David Chaney could face criminal charges for their involvement; they are no longer affiliated with the school system.

The agency’s analysis also included accountability and oversight of the charter school system, cost accounting system, and payroll.

State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd and her opponent Steven McQuillen

Byrd has spent about $150,000 so far on his re-election campaign.

“It was a pretty sleepy run until the drop off period, [when] Steven McQuillen sued me,” she said in an interview with KFOR.

She thinks her opponent, Steve McQuillen, is on track to spend $1 million.

“I released an audit that found they were lining their pockets inappropriately for our students’ education and even used some of Oklahoma’s taxpayer money,” said Byrd.

“I believe that this money channeled to the [PAC] comes from them in retaliation for this audit,” she added.

But, McQuillen didn’t raise any money; the campaign is funded by the black money group “Conservative Alliance PAC”.

In an interview with KFOR on Friday, former Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said the effort was clear.

“Five statewide shippers that probably cost $100,000 apiece, [and] then they do an awful lot of TV trying to get that person elected,” he said.

According to reports in The Tulsa World, several Republican lawmakers were asked to run against Byrd, and were told money would not be an issue.

“There were people approached by a political consultant trying to get people to run against me,” Byrd said.

In a statement to KFOR, McQuillen said he was focusing on his own campaign.

“I am focused on my own campaign…I don’t know who is behind outside groups and I have no control over what they say or do,” read part of McQuillen’s statement.

KFOR tried to contact former EPIC leaders, but could not reach anyone for comment.

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