OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten (in feature photo) has placed an item on Monday’s County Commissioners meeting asking that $25 million in COVID relief funds be granted to a nonprofit started by contributors to his race for State Treasurer.
If commissioners pass the item, the relief funds will go to Ground Zero Emergency Training Center Foundation started by Oklahoma football legend Barry Switzer and his wife, Becky (Rebecca).
Becky Switzer is listed as the principal officer on the organization’s latest Form 990 from 2019 although not receiving any compensation for the role. The nonprofit’s assets are listed at over $1 million in the 2019 report.
First reported by News9, the Switzers have made the maximum allowed contributions to the Hooten campaign for State Treasurer raising questions about Hooten’s purpose in creating the agenda item.
Item number 29 on the agenda is a $25 million ask from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that the county received for COVID pandemic relief and recovery at the county level. The organization wants to build a 100+ acre facility for training the rescue dogs and their handlers.
The center helps train and provide search and rescue dogs to over 40 first-responder agencies.
Item 29 on the agenda reads as follows:
Discussion and possible action regarding funding in an amount not to exceed $25 million dollars to Ground Zero Emergency Training Center for the purpose of acquiring land and constructing and maintaining a training center to raise and train specialized canines used for emergency disaster recovery. Funding would be sourced from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Fund 1415. This item was approved by the Oklahoma County Budget Board on July 15, 2021. This item requested by David B. Hooten, Oklahoma County Clerk.
The item seemed to surprise all three commissioners when News9 inquired about the item Friday afternoon. All three were not previously aware of the item until reporter Storme Jones asked.
Board Chair Commissioner Brian Maughan said that he would vote against the item, “because we don’t have any proof it’s an item we can use the money for.”
Commissioner Carrie Blumert praised the organization but said flatly that it was “not something we should be spending county ARPA money on.”
And, Commissioner Kevin Calvey called the idea “premature” in that the county is still developing a grant application process for distributing the ARPA funds.
Last Updated May 1, 2022, 9:47 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor