NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Byrd, Prater square off in Republican race for state auditor nomination

Cindy Byrd

Cindy Byrd

Deputy State Auditor Cindy Byrd is touting her vast experience in state auditing while opponent Charlie Prater is campaigning as an "outsider" as Republicans prepare to go to the polls Tuesday to select their nominee for state auditor and inspector.

The runoff winner will face Libertarian candidate John Yeutter of Tahlequah in the November general election.

"There is no type of audit in this office that I haven't performed," said Byrd, a 45-year-old certified public accountant from Coalgate who has spent 21 years working for the state auditor's office.

Byrd said her knowledge of complex state laws and their impact on the finances of various agencies is critical to performing good audits.

"If you don't know the laws behind the funds, you can't properly audit to see if they're spending it the way they're supposed to," she said.

While Byrd finds value in her experience, Prater embraces his role as an outsider.

"People should vote for me because I'm not the status quo," said Prater, a certified public accountant who has spent decades working in the private sector. "I'm an outsider. I'm somebody that has a fresh set of eyes."

Prater, 66, of Edmond, said there has been a lot of auditing over the past three years, but "we're not getting any results."

"I feel like taxpayers, legislators, the governor — we've been shortchanged," he said.

Byrd took exception to Prater's evaluation of the effectiveness of recent state audits.

"I don't think there is anybody else that I know of in the history of the state auditor's office who can claim that they have found as much fraud with their audits — $10 million in the last three years that led to the removal of six elected officials," Byrd said.

The two candidates have taken different approaches to funding their political campaigns.

State Ethics Commission records show that Prater has self-funded much of his campaign, loaning it $355,000 as of Thursday evening. Byrd, meanwhile, relied on contributions from others.

Prater said he believes the public should view the contributions he made to his own campaign as being a good thing.

"That's how committed I've been," Prater said. "It's my time to give back to Oklahoma and that's what I'm going to do."

Byrd took a critical view of Prater's self-contributions.

"I would question why someone wants to buy this office," Byrd said. "I would say this office is not for sale. It belongs to the taxpayers of this state."

Meanwhile, Prater noted that some of Byrd's contributions came from elected county officials and said he considered it an ethical violation for an auditor to accept campaign contributions from officials whose offices they audit.

"You cannot take money and be independent if you're going to audit these people," he said.

"No, he's wrong," Byrd countered "He needs to go back and read the code of professional conduct."

Byrd said her average contribution from county officials was about $50 and was clearly not enough to influence her conduct.

Byrd was critical of Prater's business conduct, pointing to a lawsuit where he is being sued by business partners for failing to pay a debt on a loan that he signed as a guarantor.

Prater filed a counterclaim contending that he was defrauded.

"As a CPA you do not get to say that you were defrauded," Byrd said. "We're the ones finding the fraud."

Prater said he filed his counterclaim because he discovered his fellow investors in a real estate deal had used money that they borrowed to make payments on other troubled loans that they had where he was not an investor.

Byrd received 204,249 votes (49.45 percent) in the June primary election, compared to 173,807 votes (42.08 percent) for Prater.

Gary Jones, the current state auditor who is term-limited, has endorsed his employee, Byrd, in the race.

"She is a consummate professional," Jones said. "She's the one who put the plan together to get us caught up on county audits. She's hired good people. She's trained good people."

Related Photos
<p>Charlie Prater</p>

Charlie Prater

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7a80218c1bea213c069a80bfa47f6ae5.jpg" alt="Photo - Charlie Prater " title=" Charlie Prater "><figcaption> Charlie Prater </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-849a038f0523e71f9a7133393d9dadf0.jpg" alt="Photo - Cindy Byrd " title=" Cindy Byrd "><figcaption> Cindy Byrd </figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

Comments