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Oklahoma health chief resigns over fiscal mismanagement

FILE- In this Oct. 13, 2014, file photo, Oklahoma's health commissioner, Dr. Terry Cline, right, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. Cline has resigned as Oklahoma's state health commissioner after the board accused him of mismanaging the health department's finances. The board voted at an emergency meeting Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, to accept Cline's resignation and appoint its finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, as interim commissioner. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
October 30, 2017 - 8:55 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma's state health commissioner resigned on Monday after the health board of directors accused him of mismanaging the department's finances.

The health department said in a statement that its board voted at an emergency meeting Monday to accept Terry Cline's resignation and appoint finance secretary, Preston Doerflinger, as interim commissioner.

According to the statement, the board recently learned that years of over-expenditures and fiscal mismanagement has led the department to face an immediate financial loss.

There was no answer when The Associated Press called Cline's home Monday night. However, The Daily Oklahoman reported Cline declined to comment to its reporter.

Last week, the health department revealed plans for layoffs of about 250 employees early next year, or 12 per cent of its workforce, because of a cash crunch at the agency. Employees were notified of the plan via email on Wednesday.

At the time, a department spokesman said it was unclear how the funding shortfall occurred, but that it was unrelated to budget cuts as a result of declining legislative appropriations.

Earlier this month, the department announced that it would cut ties with dozens of social service agencies that offer child-abuse prevention counselling and health services. The plan to cut off nine child-abuse prevention programs and 25 health centres as of Nov. 15 was to be part of a larger move to trim $3 million from its budget.

The cuts followed an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling against a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax that was expected to help fund the agency.

The board also said Julie Cox-Kain, Cline's senior deputy commissioner, also has resigned. It also has ordered a special audit of the department.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement that she was pleased with the appointment of Doerflinger as Cline's interim replacement.

"I applaud the Board of Health in taking swift action and making necessary changes to stabilize the financial situation," Fallin said.

Neither she nor the department of health gave any details of the mismanagement that caused the crisis.

Cline had been health commissioner since 2009. In 2011, Fallin appointed him Cabinet Secretary of Health and Human Services.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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