Updated: Sens. Cliff Aldridge, Patrick Anderson and Greg Treat today said an agreement has been reached with Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders to consider legislation calling for reforms of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM). Prior to the consideration of any additional bond issue for the project, the lawmakers have requested the following: that the Governor request an audit of AICCM; the consideration of legislation to consolidate the agency under the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation department; and a requirement for submission to all legislators a completion plan of the museum with a full accounting of all costs.
Sens. Cliff Aldridge, Patrick Anderson and Greg Treat today said an
agreement has been reached with Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders
to consider legislation calling for reforms of the American Indian
Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM).
“I’m very appreciative of the Governor and President Pro Tempore for their willingness to give these reforms consideration,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “It is in the best interest of the state that the museum and cultural center be a success, and we believe that until its completion, having it under the oversight of the Department of Tourism will give this project a better chance to realize its promise.”
Anderson said that while the group of lawmakers opposes obligating Oklahomans to even more debt in pursuit of the project, reforms strengthening accountability for the agency deserve consideration by the Legislature.
“We believe that bringing increased accountability to the agency is in the best interest of the state and the museum,” said Anderson, R-Enid. “As lawmakers, we need to justify our expenditures and guarantee accurate oversight to ensure they are put to the best and most efficient use. An audit of state funds expended on the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is a responsible choice.”
Aldridge said the lawmakers recognized a proposed bond issue may be forthcoming, but before it would be considered, the Legislature will require an updated completion plan, reflecting accurate projections for all costs with deadlines for completion.
“In order for this project to be successful, it must be able to provide the Legislature with timely and accurate cost estimates,” said Aldridge, R-Choctaw. “An updated plan for the completion of the museum and cultural center will give us a clear picture of the agency’s progress”
The lawmakers intend to introduce language calling for a vote on the proposed reforms in the coming weeks.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman today released a statement on proposed reforms saying, "I appreciate the hard work and thoughtfulness of all who want to see the Native American Cultural Center be a success while still making sure we are responsible with taxpayer dollars. Auditing the project and demanding greater accountability from Cultural Center leaders simply makes good business sense. Critical oversight that puts us all on a path forward to the project’s completion is in the best interest of Oklahoma taxpayers, and together, we should continue to look at every move with seriousness and scrutiny."
Still later in the day, Governor Mary Fallin said, “The taxpayers of Oklahoma have made a significant investment in the Native American Cultural Center and it is important they see a return on that investment,” said Fallin. “The proposal put forward today outlines a path to completion while taking steps to guarantee that state dollars are spent in a transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible way. This proposal has my full support, and I will do my part to begin the process of moving forward by asking for an audit of the AICCM. I look forward to working with the legislature to guaranteeing the success and future good management of this project.”
Fallin also thanked the CEO of the NACEA, Blake Wade.
“Since joining the NACEA in December of 2011, Blake Wade has dramatically increased productivity and accountability at that agency. Under his leadership, over $40 million of private donations have been raised in support of the completion of this museum. My thanks go out to Blake for his service and his dedication to this project.”
Wade said he is supportive of the legislature’s proposal and excited that a path to completion seems imminent.
“As the CEO of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, my number one priority is to see this project finished and to deliver a high-quality facility and museum to Oklahoma taxpayers,” Wade said. “I am excited that the legislature has outlined a path forward and a realistic scenario under which the state can match the private dollars already raised in support of the AICCM.”