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Former Oklahoma Beef Council employee is under criminal investigation

A former Oklahoma Beef Council employee is under investigation after an internal audit uncovered “possible criminal activity,” the industry nonprofit said.

The Oklahoma Beef Council administers funds in the state from the federal beef checkoff program to promote beef consumption. Money for the program comes from U.S. beef producers, who pay $1 per head of cattle sold. Proceeds from the beef checkoff program go to promotion, research and new product development, as well as other marketing for the U.S. beef industry.

The Beef Council had $3.8 million in revenue in 2013, according to its most recently available tax return.

Employee was fired

In a statement, Heather Buckmaster, executive director of the Oklahoma Beef Council and its board of directors, said the Beef Council fired the employee and launched an internal investigation when it became aware of “employee wrongdoing.”

The Beef Council also engaged a third-party accounting firm to conduct a forensic analysis and assessment of the organization's financial records, the statement said.

“When our investigation revealed possible criminal activity by our employee, our legal counsel contacted the proper authorities and we are turning over information as they request. The Oklahoma Beef Council Board of Directors has moved swiftly to address the situation with the guidance of legal and accounting professionals,” the Beef Council said. “We are determined to take all appropriate steps in line with our fiduciary, ethical and legal responsibilities. The board of directors holds our duty to our fellow cattlemen and women at the highest level.”

The Beef Council said it could not comment further because of the legal issues involved. Buckmaster could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Cattlemen's support

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association said in a statement that it supported the Oklahoma Beef Council's actions.

“We have full faith and confidence in the Oklahoma Beef Council leadership and believe they took the appropriate steps in conducting an internal investigation and turning the results of the investigation over to the proper authorities,” the Cattlemen's Association said. “This is now a criminal matter in the hands of law enforcement officers and we expect a full investigation and proper legal action to be taken to ensure justice is served for Oklahoma cattlemen and women. While we all want to know the details of what happened, we must be patient and let the wheels of the legal system turn.”

It was not immediately clear Thursday what law enforcement agency was handling the inquiry.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›