Oklahoma health agency head resigns after abuse accusations
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The interim director of Oklahoma’s health department — one of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s top aides — stepped down Tuesday following accusations of domestic violence.
Preston Doerflinger stepped down after about four months on the job. Fallin appointed him in October after commissioner Terry Cline resigned amid allegations of financial mismanagement at the agency.
Health department board members accepted Doerflinger’s resignation Tuesday after meeting in executive session to discuss his employment. The panel’s attorney said the group had received information during the past 24 hours.
Local news outlet The Frontier had reported the day before that Tulsa police responded to a call from Doerflinger’s then-wife in 2012 saying he had choked her. They have since divorced.
Tulsa police spokesman Shane Tuell read from a 2012 police report but didn’t supply The Frontier with a copy. Tuell said the case was assigned to the department’s family violence unit but it was closed and not forwarded to prosecutors.
Police said Doerflinger’s then-wife filled out a victim’s statement but later asked that it not be used, because she didn’t want her husband to lose his job.
Doerflinger, who also was appointed Fallin’s finance secretary, didn’t respond to a voice message seeking comment from The Associated Press.
A request for comment from the governor’s office also was not immediately returned.
Doerflinger’s resignation follows last week’s resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was accused by two ex-wives of abuse.
In another brush with the law, Doerflinger’s driver’s license was revoked after he pleaded no contest in 2015 to being in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, meaning the vehicle was not moving.
Doerflinger’s departure is the latest in a string resignations and firings at the Oklahoma Department of Health. Several agency officials have resigned or been fired over financial problems and budget shortfalls that officials say were caused by years of over-expenditures and fiscal mismanagement.
An audit of the health department’s finances is underway, the attorney general’s multicounty grand jury is investigating, and the Legislature appropriated $30 million during a special session to ensure the agency could make payroll and pay vendors.
Doerflinger has said agency officials for years improperly juggled money between the department’s accounts and expanded the agency’s mission and operations beyond its funding levels.
The health department board on Tuesday appointed Brian Downs, the agency’s director of state and federal policy, as acting commissioner. Board president Martha Burger said in a statement she hopes to have candidates for the next interim to vet within 60 days.
This story has been corrected to show Doerflinger pleaded no contest to being in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, not driving while under the influence of alcohol.