Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Corrections
9:20 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Oklahoma County Officials Wait For Federal Word On Possible Jail Tax Hike

Oklahoma County Jail
Credit Oklahoma County

Leaders in Oklahoma County are awaiting feedback from the Department of Justice on whether the agency will force a tax increase to pay for improvements to the county jail.

District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn says the county informed the department they've done all they can to improve conditions at the lockup without any new funding from a tax increase.

Vaughn tells The Journal Record that the commission sent a letter updating the federal government shortly before the shutdown Oct. 1. The county has not yet received a response.

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The Two-Way
7:59 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Leaders Express 'Cautious Optimism' Over Iran Nuclear Plan

Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif share a light moment Tuesday at the start of two-day talks on Iran's nuclear program.
Fabrice Coffrini AP

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 2:39 pm

Iran's proposal for easing the standoff over its nuclear program got seemingly positive initial reviews at Tuesday's start of multiparty talks in Geneva.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the Iranian delegation had made a PowerPoint presentation outlining the plan at the beginning of the two-day session. The spokesman said the plan had been received with "cautious optimism" but gave no further details of the close-door meeting, describing the proceedings as "confidential."

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The Two-Way
7:21 am
Tue October 15, 2013

On Capitol Hill, A Flurry Of Activity But Still No Deal

House Speaker John Boehner (center) and House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (right) arrive for a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 10:16 pm

(This post was last updated at 11:05 p.m. ET)

With a little more than a day to go before the nation potentially defaults on its debts, there's still no solid plan on the table in Washington.

There was a flurry of activity on Tuesday, but it produced little significant movement.

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Fall Membership Drive
6:57 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Consider the Suspension Bridge: It's Public Radio

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Manish Rai Jain Flickr Creative Commons

Yes, I'm really going to compare public radio to a suspension bridge. They're very similar, don't you think?

And not just in the obvious ways.

It's easy to see that like a suspension bridge, public radio is a connector between communities, a way to get from Here to There, a conduit for the free exchange between points -- geographic or intellectual -- that seemed forever destined to be separated.

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Doerflinger Says To Tighten Belts
6:25 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

State Tax Collections Down Compared To Same Time Last Year

Preston Doerflinger
Credit Oklahoma PCA / Flickr Creative Commons

The state's top finance official is warning state agency directors to prepare for potentially flat budgets next year after a report that collections to the state's General Revenue Fund this quarter are trailing those from the same three months last year.

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Opening Day of NCAI
4:55 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Fallin Says Tribes "Integral" To Oklahoma

Credit National Congress of American Indians

The 70th annual National Congress of American Indians has opened in Tulsa with tribal ceremonies and a speech from Gov. Mary Fallin.

The Tulsa World reports that Fallin welcomed up to 3,000 attendees from tribes across the country on Monday.

Fallin congratulated tribes on their work to improve tribal health care, tying tribal efforts to national reforms.

Fallin also addressed the government shutdown, urging lawmakers to "see the light and get their act together."

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Public Health
11:33 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Judges Tosses Tulsa Oral Surgeon Civil Suit

Credit KWGS News

An Oklahoma judge has tossed out a lawsuit against an oral surgeon accused of keeping filthy office conditions at his two Tulsa-area clinics.

Judge Rebecca Nightingale dismissed Sharon Fairchilds' lawsuit against Dr. W. Scott Harrington after Fairchilds' lawyer failed to show up for a hearing on Monday in Tulsa.

Fairchilds sued saying that Harrington was negligent when he allowed two of his office clerks to perform sedation on a child.

Harrington's attorneys had asked that Fairchilds' lawsuit be dismissed.

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OTRS
10:26 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Wilbanks Fired As Head Of Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System

James Wilbanks
Credit State of Oklahoma

The executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System was fired after trustees found out he granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining the required approval.

Trustees of the retirement system voted to fire James Wilbanks on Oct. 2.

The Oklahoman reported Monday that decision comes after trustees found out Wilbanks granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining required approval from the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

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Oklahoma Voices
10:02 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Reporting On The Middle East: Syria And Egypt After The Arab Spring

Participants during an October 2, 2013 panel discussion about Syria, Egypt, and the Arab Spring. Left-to-right: NPR correspondent Kelly McEvers, Egyptian scholar Samer Shehata, Syria expert Joshua Landis, and KGOU's "World Views" host Suzette Grillot
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

NPR assigned correspondent Kelly McEvers to Iraq in 2010 with instructions not to miss a day ahead of the expected troop withdrawal by the end of 2011.

“Then in late 2010, a young man in Tunisia set himself on fire, and literally changed everything,” McEvers says. “At first I was watching it on TV in Baghdad, sitting there thinking, ‘Do we really have to stay in Baghdad? C’mon, you know? Put me in coach!’ asking to be sent out on the stories.”

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9:53 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Sex Crimes Are Most Common Reason Police Lose Certification

Lead in text: 
From 2010 to 2012, of the 66 officers who had their certifications revoked or suspended, were given a letter of reprimand, or surrendered their certification, according to records from the Council on Law Enforcement and Education, or CLEET, 18 were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, sex crimes.
More than a quarter of Oklahoma peace officers who were disciplined by the state's certification agency or surrendered their certifications over three years were convicted of or pleaded guilty to sex crimes, according to records analyzed by Oklahoma Watch.

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