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Richardson would go after OTA if elected governor

Alicia Fraire / Red Dirt Report
Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson at the office of Red Dirt Report.
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This is Part 1 in our discussion with Gary Richardson, a Republican running for governor of Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Back in 2002, when attorney Gary Richardson was running for governor, he highlighted how he thought the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and its statewide system of toll roads “was a scam” and should be held accountable and subject to a state audit. 

And during a 2016 anti-turnpike rally at the State Capitol, where people were protesting a plan to build a toll road in eastern Oklahoma County, Richardson spoke and stayed with that same message, telling the crowd that the OTA was “a cancer” that “quietly moves along and all of a sudden it’s taken over.”

Over a year later, the eastern Oklahoma County toll road (the Northeast Oklahoma County Loop) is on track to being built and Richardson is staying on his anti-OTA message as he travels the state – on many toll roads, as it turns out – spreading his message.

Gary Richardson takes on anti-turnpike issue at State Capitol rally in 2016. (Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report)

Richardson tells the story of how he gave a job to then-attorney Frank Keating – a future Oklahoma governor – and how when Keating became governor, he allegedly helped Richardson’s brother-in-law land a job at the OTA. Keating would become a senior partner at Richardson’s Tulsa law firm.

It was his brother-in-law who began to share information about the waste and corruption within the OTA. This got Richardson’s attention and led him to do his own investigation into an operation that has repeatedly stated that once the turnpikes were paid for they would become free roads. He was outraged at the lack of oversight over this huge outfit that impacts thousands of Oklahomans every day as they travel hither and yon.

Richardson told Red Dirt Report that he wants to “take down the tollgates and save our state millions of dollars,” while opening up remote rural areas bordering the turnpikes to economic development.

But as things are, he said, the OTA has been “operating in the dark all these years.”

“We can’t find out who owns the bonds,” Richardson said, adding that he is baffled that Gov. Mary Fallin gave the OTA a 16 percent increase and did not demand an audit at the same time, which Richardson didn't find all that surprising.

And with the economic turmoil settling in on the Sooner State, Richardson says that the OTA not only doesn’t pay any property taxes, it does not send tollgate money to the state treasury.

Gary Richardson hopes to be Oklahoma's next governor. (Alicia Fraire / Red Dirt Report)

As he states on his campaign website: “It’s time to take back the turnpikes by first demanding a truly independent-ordered forensic audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority,” adding, “I won’t be surprised if that audit uncovers millions of dollars in waste and outright fraud.”

However, he did say powerful people have approached him and asked him to lay off his anti-turnpike crusade. He assured them he intended to do no such thing.

But it’s not only the OTA Richardson has in his sights. If elected governor, he would demand audits of the Grand River Dam Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Department of Education and the state’s prison system.

“I’m also the only candidate that is repeatedly talking about corruption and waste in our state,” he said. “It’s a big part of my message.”

To learn more about Gary Richardson’s campaign for governor, go here.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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