County Clerk's attendance questioned
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
How often do you expect your elected officials to be at work or inside the building where their office is located?
Fox 25 Investigates has spent the last month investigating concerns about Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill’s attendance in the office she's asking you to elect her to once again. Caudill is a Republican seeking a sixth term in office. She failed to get more than half of the primary vote so she is facing an August runoff election.
However despite multiple , phone calls, text messages, emails and stops by her office she has never agreed to an interview to answer our questions about how often she is actually in the office.
While there is no official time sheet for any of the county's elected officials - there is an electronic trail that will tell you when they are in or at least near the building.
FOX 25 requested the records that detail when the transponder in Caudill's car opens the gate to allow her access to parking. We also requested records from when her personal electronic key card is swiped.
The records spanned a three month period from April through June, which included the time of the initial primary election in which Caudill ended up in a runoff.
There were 64 working days in the three months. According to the records there is no indication of Caudill's vehicle entering, or her card being scanned for 40 percent of those days.
Caudill has said some of her missing days were related to running a campaign for re-election. For comparison we also requested records from county court clerk Rick Warren who was also running a political campaign during the same three months. His vehicle registered as arriving around 8-am nearly every work day. He too is involved in a run-off election.
The county office building opens to the public at 8 in the morning, however according to the records Caudill only ever arrived before 10 in the morning on eight of the 64 days. Of those 64 working days reviewed, there were only 10 days that have proof Caudill remained in the building even one minute past 4:30; the county offices close at 5:00 in the evening.
There is no law requiring elected officials to be in the offices they are elected to manage, but the county clerk's duties, as described on the county's website all reference duties related to handling records or attending meetings that are held within the county office building.
Caudill's initial response to our request for an interview was an email questioning the accuracy of the electronic time stamps on the records we received. She said in her note that as an elected official her 'hours' were 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
However she did not respond to calls or emails with specific questions as to how she is able to manage an office without being present or if she has access to county records outside the office and if -so- is that access is secure.
So we went to the courthouse and found Caudill walking down a public hallway outside her office. We asked her about her attendance and she said we needed to make an appointment to speak with her. We reminded her that we have been trying for several weeks to make an appointment and asked what time she arrived at work on that day.
“I don’t know,” Caudill replied, “10:30 [AM].”
We asked because on that day, we saw Caudill at her home and documented her getting into her vehicle with two other passengers at 10:37 in the morning.
Caudill said she never looked at her records because she doesn’t “punch a time clock.”
She then went into a back office and closed the door.
In an email to FOX 25 following this exchange, Caudill wrote our questions in a public building, in a public hallway about a public official were "disruptive, rude, unprofessional;" she called FOX 25 Investigates’ Phil Cross’ behavior in questioning her “disgusting.”
The full text of Caudill's email:
I was ambushed by your reporter Phil Cross at the courthouse this afternoon as I was returning to a Retirement Board meeting bringing information to the District Attorney. You should know he was very disruptive, rude, unprofessional, and his behavior was disgusting. I can certainly appreciate now why Fox News is currently embroiled in sexual harassment suits at the national level. I felt threatened by Mr. Cross.
Your news station had requested information about parking records that have absolutely no basis in fact for recordkeeping purposes of when those who come into the building or when they leave. I’ve attached the disclaimers for your reference. As the County Clerk I have meetings insides and outside the building. My time isn’t kept by an electronic card, and there are no requirements for that type of time keeping for elected officers. I work long hours in and OUTSIDE the building representing my office and Oklahoma County well in excess of 40 hours a week.
I have repeatedly used the access cards of others to enter the building in the basement where I park, as they have used mine. This happens because there are times when employees enter the building at similar times. I have kept my schedule as unstructured as possible because of the people who have been involved in my opponents campaign. I don’t like being stalked and will use every effort to keep myself safe from any possible altercation.
The courthouse is a public building, and my offices are open to the public. But let me explain to you that ensuring the orderly business of the clerk’s office far exceed a reporter’s right to interrupt that business by barging in while I’m attending a meeting and demanding answers based on flawed data.
I will not be stalked by a reporter. If your reporter chooses to make a decision to attempt to write a story based on records that have disclaimers and loopholes large enough to drive a Mack Truck through then you will be spreading misinformation. If this misinformation is presented with malice, and noting the tone Mr. Cross’ voice as he attempted to disrupt my Retirement Board meeting, then you and Mr. Cross will both be violating your journalistic oaths and may be subject to legal action.
The runoff election in which Caudill will face David Hooten is August 23.