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Don Armes explains DEQ funding cut

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._Long time lawmaker Don Armes of Faxon is defending himself against accusations of conspiring to cut the budget of a state agency in an act of political revenge.

The accusations came from two news organizations, The Journal Record and an Oklahoma City television station. Both stories says Armes, in his role as the Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee, cut the budget of the Department of Environmental Quality for two friends, who worked for the DEQ, but were demoted by the new director in January and ultimately fired in May.

The article says Armes did it as retribution against the new director, who the two friends saw as a threat.

"I mean, we have a job as appropriations people in the legislature to balance a budget. We've got education that needs more money; we got troopers who need more money so we can get more troopers on the road. We've got a lot of problems in the state budget," stated Armes.

Armes says the article paints the DEQ budget cut as a vendetta, but he says it was smart government.

"It was not a vendetta and I really resent the fact that I've been attacked personally for doing my job," said Armes.

Armes says he and his staff members saw an agency with an account that already built up $23 million and could afford to repurpose some of their revolving funds because it has the ability to replenish.

"We started looking at the account in February, the account had like $20 million and three months later it had like $23 million in it. Money is pouring into this account by fees and fines and things like that; normal course of business," explained Armes. ”Therefore the money was taken from the account by the full Appropriations Committee, not Don Armes.”

The Journal Record talks about two ex-DEQ workers, and says they were out to get back at the DEQ. It says they would have secret meetings at Armes’ OKC residence and give Armes inside information on DEQ's finances. The article also states Armes worked on getting a DEQ bill killed just to please one of the ex-workers, but Armes actually voted in favor of the bill.

"In fact, I got a text message from a representative friend of mine in Moore that said, 'I can't believe they tried to say you beat the bill. I am the one who beat the bill. I can't believe they're saying that',” said Armes.

It was at the “Blue House” that the article claims Armes and the two others would have secret meetings, plotting about the DEQ. Armes says they actually did meet at the home but it was nothing unethical, or illegal.

"To get those people out into another place, in other words help them take their talent, their years and years of state service and find a better deal, get out of that bad situation. That was what a lot of those meetings were about," explained Armes.

Armes says the largest misconception the article portrays is he was the reason for the DEQ to lose out on money.

"5.5 percent budget cuts were across the board. The $12 million figure was above my pay grade. I did not have the decision on what the number would be. I actually had suggested at first maybe 5," said Armes.

Armes also points out that there were other state agencies that had even more money taken from existing accounts. For example, lawmakers took 17.5 million out of the Transportation Department's fund.

 

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