Stitt cuts two veteran commission chiefs who backed his main rival

Governor Kevin Stitt removed two members of the Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Commission who supported the agency director against Stitt in the Republican primary.

Larry Van Schuyver, who was chairman of the commission, said in a series of social media posts that he and Paul Costilow, the vice chairman, were removed from office by Stitt following Tuesday’s primary election.

“This was done in retaliation against me for using my right as a citizen to support Director Joel Kintsel for governor in my spare time,” Van Schuyver said in a post.

Kate Vesper, Stitt’s press secretary, said in an email Friday, “Mr. Costilow and Mr. Van Schuyer were both appointed by Governor Stitt and served at the pleasure of the Governor. We wish them the best in their next project.

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Vesper said she understood the notifications were made over the phone.

The Veterans Affairs Commission website posts vacancies for the chairman and vice-chairman.

Kintsel, the executive director of the Oklahoma State Department of Veterans Affairs, took time off earlier this year to run against Stitt as a Republican. Stitt easily won Tuesday’s GOP nomination in the field of four, earning 69% of the vote. Kintsel received 14%.

Campaign finance records show that Van Schuyver donated $500 to Kintsel’s campaign and purchased over $1,300 in campaign t-shirts for Kintsel. Costilow donated $900 to Kintsel’s campaign, according to a report filed last month with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

The Frontier, an online publication, reported last month that Stitt’s chief of staff called Van Schulyer and Costilow to a meeting in February and expressed concerns about Kintsel’s plans to run for governor.

Van Schulyer told The Frontier he left the meeting under the impression that Stitt’s chief of staff, Bond Payne, wanted the commission to “get rid of” Kintsel.

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Members of the Commission are appointed and serve, without compensation, at the pleasure of the Governor. The nine-member commission oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs and chooses the director.

Van Schuyver was appointed to the commission in 2014 by the then governor. Marie Fallin. He was among the commission members who spent 13 hours behind closed doors in 2018 before choosing Sallisaw over Muskogee and Poteau as the site of the new veterans center.

The Oklahoman obtained documents that year showing that Van Schuyver had voted for Sallisaw even though his scorecard put Poteau at the top of his list. He told The Oklahoman that he had a better Poteau score ahead of site visits and community discussions.

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