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Health board accepts Commissioner Terry Cline's resignation

Terry Cline has resigned as commissioner of Oklahoma State Health Department. [The Oklahoman Archives]

Terry Cline has resigned as commissioner of Oklahoma State Health Department. [The Oklahoman Archives]

Faced with a crisis after what it called “years of over-expenditures and fiscal mismanagement,” the State Board of Health accepted the resignation of Commissioner Terry Cline during an emergency meeting Monday evening.

Cline's resignation comes after the board received information that the Oklahoma State Health Department faces an “immediate financial loss” due to mismanagement, according to a statement released to the media after the meeting.

“The Board takes these matters very seriously and is prepared to take all steps necessary to ensure that OSDH continues its important work in the area of public health,” board President Martha Burger said in a prepared statement.

The resignation of Oklahoman's top health official comes in the wake of a budget crisis at the State Department of Health that has the agency pondering layoffs and other cuts.

The Board of Health met for about 30 minutes in closed session Monday evening to discuss Cline's employment status.

Julie Cox-Kain, state Health Department senior deputy commissioner also has resigned.

Also Monday, state Health Department signed a letter of engagement with Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones for a special audit of the department's finances.

The board named State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger as interim health commissioner.

Cline's resignation comes one month after the Oklahoma State Department of Health requested an independent audit of its finances.

Last week, the agency also said it planned to layoff about 250 employees as it deals with an ongoing budget crisis.

An operating budget shortfall will force more than 1,000 Oklahoma State Department of Health employees to take furlough days beginning this week.

Reached by telephone Monday, Cline declined to comment.

Cline has served in various roles in state government under governors Frank Keating, Brad Henry and Mary Fallin.

Cline also serves on Fallin's cabinet as secretary of Health and Human Services. It was unclear Monday if Cline will continue with his cabinet position.

Gov. Fallin issued a statement Monday night on the health department leadership changes:

“I applaud the Board of Health in taking swift action and making necessary changes to stabilize the financial situation. ...

“It's critical to restore confidence in the operations and delivery of public health services. We will work with every resource available to get the agency back on firm financial ground.”

Contributing: Staff Writer Josh Dulaney

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 ›

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