FOLLOW-UP: OPEA Meets with Sen. Newberry on Merit System

OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley and OPEA Legislative Liaison Dennis Adkins on Thursday met with Senator Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) to discuss a bill aimed at eliminating the merit protection system.

Senate Bill 1046, filed last week by Senator Newberry, would eliminate Oklahoma’s classified employment system, meaning all state agencies would have the power to terminate employees at any time without just cause.

Zearley said he and Adkins presented Senator Newberry with information about the Oklahoma Merit Protection System and discussed the potential consequences of eliminating the entire system.

“We discussed the fundamental building blocks of the merit system,” Zearley said. “While we understand the need to update the system for the 21st century, we truly believe the foundation of the merit system is still relevant today.”

Zearley said the classified system was originally created to combat political patronage in state agencies.

“The current system promotes accountability and protects due process rights for employees,” Zearley said. “Additionally, it is legally necessary because federal law requires some state agencies to employ classified workers to qualify for federal funding.”

Of the meeting, Zearley said he thought it went well, and said he hoped his members would take the time to thank Senator Newberry for listening to OPEA’s concerns.

“We appreciate Senator Newberry for taking the time to meet with OPEA,” Zearley said. “It’s still very early in the process, but I’m optimistic that we can come up with a solution that will address the issues while still protecting the fundamental concepts of the merit system.”

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