FOX 25 Investigates: Federal investigations into Department of Tourism
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
There are a lot of things you can find at Roman Nose State Park; from camping to fishing and boating there many discoveries at the park that is one of the seven original Oklahoma State Parks.
Another thing you would have been able to find at the park recently were federal investigators with the United States Department of Labor. The agency told FOX 25 it is investigating workplace issues that came up from findings by the Department of Tourism’s former internal auditor.
The internal audit found that when workers went on the clock at Roman Nose, the computer was coded to take 30 minutes out of their day for a lunch break, no matter how much or how little they worked and regardless of whether they actually took a lunch break.
How long this went on is not known.
However, Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones said his office’s own external review of the agency found many issues. At the time one of the first issues was the fact that the Department of Tourism and Recreation had failed to hire an internal auditor despite a state law requiring them to have one.
“You need somebody looking at the day to day operations having that checks and balances in place,” Jones said of the internal auditor position. “It's important they report to the board because the board is the one that runs the agency.”
The state audit Jones’ office conducted was one that just scratched the surface of tourism's finances and spending. Even still, the audit uncovered problems.
“Once you find a weakness you go back to check to see if something did happen,” Jones said, “And in some cases we did find things that were missing; and especially guns anytime we find guns are missing that is a great concern.”
Once the Tourism department hired an internal auditor, it wasn't just an issue with missing guns that was uncovered.
According to internal audit findings tourism officials had manufactured short barreled shotguns by replacing the barrels on legally acquired guns.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, told FOX 25 manufacturing short barrel shotguns without a license is against the National Firearms Act.
Once the ATF was notified about the issue they ordered Tourism to dismantle the weapons immediately.
A written statement attributed to agency director Dick Dutton, said the agency never "acquired" illegal weapons. However, when asked about the contradiction with the information provided by the ATF, agency spokeswoman Leslie Blair admitted guns were modified in a way that was in contradiction to the National Firearms Act.
According to Tourism records, the agency ultimately traded the unlicensed short barrel guns in for legal replacements.
A published internal audit of the rangers also found thousands of rounds of expensive high-power ammunition missing. In a response to that audit, state park leaders argued it was hard to keep track of ammunition.
Auditor Jones said the findings by the internal auditor are symptoms of what his audit found.
“Doesn't surprise me,” Jones said. “When you do that preliminary audit and find out those internal controls are not in place it would lead you to believe that the possibility of other things happening are great.”