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Grifters Gone Wild: Audit report slams Shelley Zumwalt for giving cushy state contract to hubby’s IT firm…

The grifts are still going strong in the Oklahoma government!

Yesterday afternoon, State Auditor Cindy Byrd released her now-annual scathing audit of Oklahoma’s blatant misuse of federal tax dollars. 

Amongst the many takeaways, the big headline is that Oklahoma Secretary of Tourism Shelley Zumwalt – the chic, fashionable, ageist darling of the Stitt administration – possibly broke the law when she failed to disclose that her husband’s IT firm received millions of dollars in state contracts. 

If you’re a loyal and devout TLO reader, that may sound familiar. 

Over a year ago, while the legitimate media was writing PR-pitched puff pieces about Shelley’s fast and furious rise through the halls of state government, we were covering the age discrimination lawsuits filed against her, and other "interesting things."

For example:

In addition to the age discrimination stuff, I’m also hearing interesting things related to Zumwalt and the IT Company her husband works for – Phase 2. They apparently do a lot of contract work for the state, and well, I’ll let you know what I find out on that front some other day.

Although the Ogle Mole Network was pretty tight-lipped on the matter, State Auditor Cindy Byrd was able to get to the bottom of things. According to her, Shelley checked all the wrong boxes to help her husband’s firm get a big government contract:

“This contract was not competitively bid nor had this vendor been previously contracted with the State of Oklahoma.”...

“Subsequent contracting and payments were transacted by OESC and signed by Shelley Zumwalt, who was appointed as the Executive Director of OESC in May 2020. By April 2022, Zumwalt had approved additional contracts and change orders to Phase 2 totaling $8.5 million.

“During this period, Zumwalt failed to disclose the fact that her husband, John Zumwalt, was employed as the vice president of Phase 2. As the director of OESC, Zumwalt was required to complete annual forms attesting that no related party transactions existed in the performance of her duties regarding the expenditure of funds. In three separate instances, Zumwalt checked ‘No’ on these forms.

Geeze! Even by Stitt government grifter appointee standards, that’s a pretty ballsy move!

In other news, I need to find a wife who works in government and can authorize the state to buy $8.5-million in no-bid advertising contracts on TLO! Any takers? We’ll get rich!

In a normal world, the audit results would lead to Shelley looking for a new job, but fortunately for her, she has a boss who encourages employees to grift taxpayer money off the top and put it directly into their bank accounts. If anything, expect Stitt to give Shelley another raise and promotion, and then thank her for a job well done screwing over taxpayers.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond, though, is singing a different tune. He thinks Zumwalt should go stand in the unemployment line and wait for someone to bring her donuts

Here's his statement:

“The audit findings released today show troubling and all too familiar patterns of mismanagement, costing taxpayers millions as a result. Today’s report confirms my previous order of an investigative audit of OMES, which is sorely needed and long overdue.”

“One of the most egregious findings is the wholly inappropriate and potentially unlawful actions of Secretary Shelley Zumwalt, who used her position as executive director of OESC to approve millions of dollars in contracts for a software company where her husband was a vice president. This level of self-dealing represents an unforgivable breach of trust that disqualifies Ms. Zumwalt from overseeing the expenditure of our tax dollars. She should resign immediately and cooperate fully with my office as I seek to determine whether any Oklahoma statutes were violated.”

I don’t agree with Gentner Drummond on everything, but isn’t it cool to see a real-life conservative Oklahoma politician actually care about the ethical stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and not just try to figure out ways to funnel it into the hands of grifter buddies, financial backers and members of the Young Presidents Association?

Although Shelley is now in our fighter pilot AG’s crosshairs, she’s putting up a not-so-frumpy fight. She quickly hit up Renzi and her friends at Saxum PR to issue this statement: 

“A thorough review of the situation would have easily cleared up any confusion on the many sign-offs and disclosures that happened well before I was named executive director of OESC,” Zumwalt said. “Transparency has always been a top priority of mine, and I will not be resigning.”

Yep, nothing to see here. Transparency is a top priority. We just need a thorough review of the situation to clear up the confusion. You know, something like an audit. 

Shelley also said this in an interview with News 9:

Zumwalt was asked if there was a paper trail proving no conflict. She said her husband was not part of the work contracted through the state. “I don’t know how you prove a negative,” Zumwalt said. “He never worked on state business.”

Did you get that? 

It’s okay that hubby’s IT firm got $8.5-million in state contracts because he – the company’s VP of Software Development – never worked on state business. He just indirectly profited from it instead. Smart guy, huh?

Basically, there’s nothing to worry about. Crack open a Lost Lake and relax. Everything is fine.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens with Shelley regarding this latest scandal. 

Ever since former Stitt lieutenant John Budd identified her as a high-potential employee six years ago, she’s used her swagger, media-friendly charm, and do-whatever-it-takes attitude to rise up the ranks of state government, and nearly triple her salary in the process. 

Will this scandal be her undoing? The thing that finally bumps her off the “Zumwalt for Lt. Governor” trajectory and lands her a PR gig with Gateway Bank?

Or will she survive it, and continue to help her husband’s IT firm score cushy government contracts? 

I guess we’ll have to wait to find out. 

Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised. 

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