House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, talks to reporters in a news conference Thursday at the state Capitol. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Oklahoma Voice)
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s House speaker on Thursday shut down impeachment speculations surrounding state Superintendent Ryan Walters.
Speaker Charles McCall said his chamber would not pursue impeachment proceedings unless the fellow Republican commits a crime.
McCall, R-Atoka, said Oklahoma residents have sent numerous emails about Walters to members of the House, where the impeachment process would have to begin.
He said some messages were supportive while others were unhappy with Walters’ performance as the head of Oklahoma’s public education system.
“We’ll always be watching those things, but until somebody puts forth an allegation of something criminal (in) nature, I don’t see the House of Representatives just weighing in and trying to overturn the election results of the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
Two weeks ago, House Democrats urged McCall to form a bipartisan special committee to investigate possible impeachment charges. Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, and her caucus linked the state superintendent’s “toxic rhetoric” to bomb threats at Tulsa area schools.
At the time, a spokesperson for Walters called the minority party’s actions “shameful.”
“These liberal Democrats will stop at nothing to defend their union bosses and push a radical agenda on our kids,” Dan Isett said. “In seeking to remove a popularly elected constitutional officer, they represent a direct threat to our democracy.”
Isett referred to those remarks when asked to respond Thursday to McCall’s comments.
Democrats also pointed to state and federal audits that found rampant misuse of COVID-19 relief funds in a program Walters helped lead before running for state superintendent. The initiative gave grants to families for children’s educational expenses.
Auditors said the program’s administrators declined to implement proper guardrails on spending. Grant recipients then misspent $1.7 million on purchases unrelated to schooling, like gaming consoles and power tools, according to a report from the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Office.
Walters and Gov. Kevin Stitt said a “negligent” vendor is to blame. Attorney General Gentner Drummond has said he believes state actors are responsible.
No one has been charged with a crime as a result of the audits.
Munson said Thursday the speaker’s decision not to investigate Walters “ignores the concerns of frightened parents.”
“As each day goes by without action from the House of Representatives, the superintendent is emboldened to continue defunding and dismantling our public education system because he knows he won’t be held accountable,” the Democratic leader said in a statement.
Walters’ brand of rhetoric has made him one of the most polarizing elected officials in Oklahoma. He defeated his general election opponent, Democrat Jena Nelson, 57% to 43% in November.
McCall said the superintendent’s performance is “not mine to judge.”
“He was elected just like the 101 members of this House,” McCall said. “I think all of us get a report card from the people of the state of Oklahoma. Just like the rest of us, we will be accountable to the people at the next election.”
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