Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Surprise: Easley Resigns GRDA Post

Kevin Easley
The CEO of the Grand River Dam Authority, Kevin Easley, has abruptly resigned.

Whether his resignation is voluntary is the subject of considerable gossip today.

Easley tendered his resignation during a GRDA board meeting today, saying he has a job offer he can't refuse, although he declined to reveal it. He recently signed a 5-year contract with the GRDA.

His last day on the job will be June 1st.

In a news release from the GRDA, Easley said, "I am very proud of everything we have done at GRDA. However, I have had an offer in the private sector that I simply can't refuse."

Easley said the "new gubernatorial administration should have an opportunity for input into who it would like to see as the next leader of GRDA."

Tulsa mayor and newly-appointed GRDA board member, Dewey Bartlett, said Easley has done a good job at GRDA and has no complaints. He says Easley's decision was his own.

The Tulsa World's story about Easley included these details: "Easley has been under scrutiny after he received what amounted to a nearly $90,000 raise in November.

"The GRDA board raised Easley's salary to $225,000 a year and he was given the additional title of director of investments.

"It is unclear whether Easley's decision to step down has any connection to the recent federal grand jury indictment of former state Sen. Mike Morgan, lobbyist William Andrew Skeith and Oklahoma City attorney N. Martin Stringer. Morgan is accused of accepting illegal payments, disguised as retainer fees, from three companies in exchange for using his position to influence legislation. One of the companies was a power company that originally wanted to build a power plant as part of a project with GRDA. The possibility of GRDA obtaining a broad exemption from public competitive bidding statutes to reduce costs of the project was one of the things discussed, according to the indictment.

"Skeith, who is accused of participating in the conspiracy, had close ties to Easley in the past. Easley and four other powerful state senators came to Skeith's aid in 2001 when Skeith was executive vice president of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors. When Skeith got in trouble with his governing board for the alleged mismanagement of association funds, Easley and the other senators called association board members to the state Capitol where they lectured them about how critical Skeith was to getting road funding bills passed.

"Easley and Gretchen Zumwalt-Smith, general counsel for the GRDA, said there is no severance agreement between Easley and the board, although there was a 'written document' that is not covered by the state's Open Records Act. No money will change hands as a result of the document, Zumwalt-Smith said. The document doesn't deal with Easley's future potential legal costs, but GRDA would be legally required to cover them if they involved actions that were within the scope of his employment by the GRDA, she said."

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