(This story first appeared on NonDoc.com on Friday, August 19, 2022)
In a statement emailed to the attorney general’s office and texted to NonDoc shortly after midnight Friday, Pontotoc County Attorney Paul Smith said he resigned from his teaching position at the American government at Holdenville High School.
But a request made at Thursday’s Board of District Attorneys meeting and a new statement from Attorney General John O’Connor point to the lingering complications of Smith’s decision to take a second public sector job in addition to his Chief Prosecutor of Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes. counties.
“We have been advised that DA Smith has decided to resign from his teaching position,” O’Connor told NonDoc Friday night. “It is unfortunate that he attributed statements to my office that were never made. My office never “approved” of his plans, whether for full-time or part-time high school employment, while still keeping his full-time DA job.The district attorney position is a full-time job.
Smith, who is due to leave office in January after refusing to seek another term as DA, described the situation as a “mistake” and said he did not want to aggravate the attorney general.
“I regret any misunderstanding. It was completely unintentional,” Smith said. “I thought my path was within the bounds of the law, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, and that’s why I checked.”
Smith could also face a reprimand at next month’s Board of District Attorneys meeting.
On Thursday, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Parter called for a Sept. 15 meeting agenda item to consider censuring Smith and possibly approving a resolution to encourage district attorneys in practice not to seek additional employment opportunities unless they are part-time and conducted outside the normal course. working hours.
“This behavior by a serving district attorney negatively affects all of us in the district attorney system,” Prater said when asked about his request. “This should not be tolerated, and the district attorneys in this state cannot accept another prosecutor’s conduct in this manner.”
Smith declined to respond to Prater’s comment, but called the situation a “pickle” and said he decided to quit his teaching job to resolve the dispute.
“I’m really tired of dealing with this,” he said. “I don’t see what all this brouhaha is.”
Smith waives school allowance and seeks advice from GA
Concern for Prater, O’Connor’s office and others stems from the fact that Smith has agreed to teach six sections of the U.S. government for the fall semester at Holdenville High School, beginning at 8:05 a.m. from Monday to Friday. Beyond earning extra public pay and qualifying for a second public retirement system, Smith’s dual role has raised questions about how anyone could run a three-county district attorney’s office while still simultaneously working as a full-time teacher.
Smith initially went from full-time to part-time, but after further conversations with O’Connor’s office, he said he decided to simply resign from Holdenville Public Schools.
“After our Wednesday afternoon call, I contacted the superintendent by phone and arranged a meeting with the school administrators to advise them that I must resign and leave my position as soon as possible,” Smith wrote in his e-mail to O’Connor’s office. Friday. “Arrangements have been made and my resignation has been accepted. In my written resignation drafted last night, I requested to waive any compensation that may be due in view of the unfortunate circumstances caused at least in part by misunderstanding or ambiguity in the various legal authorities given the history of the services auxiliary teaching carried out by many people without problems. .”
Smith told O’Connor’s office that he formally seeks an attorney general’s opinion, which serves as the official interpretation of a law’s impact until a court hears it and is pronounced.
Smith, who taught adjunct courses at Seminole State College for 13 years, posed three questions to the AG office:
Is a state offer and employee prohibited from serving as a adjunct teacher under SB 1119 because doing so would violate the dual duty provisions of Title 51 OS Section 6?
If that’s the case, how could a government official or employee ever serve as an adjunct professor at an Oklahoma institution of higher education, as so many others have already done over the course of the year. history of our state?
Does the actual number of hours devoted to an ancillary teaching task, whether in a public school or public college setting, dictate whether the constitutional provisions to give personal attention to the office are violated? and if so, how does this square with 2008 OK AG 6 which provides that temporary absence or inability to perform the duties of an office does not constitute abandonment of office or a breach of duty of loyalty ; insofar as it is a question of the intention of the incumbent and his conduct, what makes it a question of fact?
When asked how his district attorney’s office fared over the past week as it balanced teaching obligations and the hassle of media attention, Smith said things were doing well in DA District 22.
“The office is doing very well. Wow. What a waste,” Smith said. “I certainly didn’t see any of this coming, otherwise I would never have gone down this path.”
Smith’s full letter to the Attorney General’s office – as texted to NonDoc – appears below, followed by the official letter seeking the Attorney General’s opinion:
Attorney General’s Office
Please accept this communication an update from our conference call yesterday regarding adjunct teaching issues.
As you know, I was surprised to learn of the position taken by your office following previous communications. After letting the news sink for a bit, it became apparent that, regardless of the various arguments that might be made, an unintended appearance of impropriety had occurred given the media interest. While this situation was accomplished with the best of intentions, it resulted in many unfortunate outcomes, the most disappointing to me being unserved students.
After our Wednesday afternoon call, I contacted the superintendent by phone and arranged a meeting with the school administrators to inform them that I needed to resign and leave my position as soon as possible. Arrangements were made and my resignation was accepted. In my written resignation drafted last night, I requested to waive any compensation that may be due in view of the unfortunate circumstances caused at least in part by misunderstanding or ambiguity in the various legal authorities given the history of the services auxiliary teaching carried out by many people without problems. .
After consideration today, I have drafted the letter requesting an official opinion from the GA on the subject at your suggestion to seek the necessary clarifications to resolve any ambiguity as to the auxiliary teaching service and the application of the agents and similarly situated state employees who may also want to respond to SB 1119’s call.
I had hoped to convey this information this afternoon on a follow-up call, as I understood I would be receiving, but no call came through.
Again, please accept my appreciation for yesterday’s courtesy call and the updated information above. The GA’s request for opinion will be mailed shortly. I would welcome a follow-up call if possible on Friday.
Paul B. Smith