Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Concerns Prompted Turnpike Authority Meeting on Ridings

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Concerns Prompted Turnpike Authority Meeting on Ridings

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe Journal Record Staff Reporter Concerns about management and general expenditures at the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority prompted a special Aug. 23 authority board meeting to consider the employment of authority Chief Executive Richard Ridings, Gov.

David Walters said Thursday.

At his weekly news conference, Walters said the board "apparently reviewed any concerns expressed, and I'm satisfied with their decision" to give Ridings a vote of confidence.

After a five-hour, closed-door meeting at the Waterford Hotel, the board voted unanimously to take no official action on an ambiguous agenda item worded so that it could have resulted in either Ridings' promotion, demotion or firing.

Authority Chairman James Orbison said the consensus of the board was "confidence in the management of the agency." Walters on Thursday said he didn't have any personal concerns about Ridings, who has been on the job about two and a half years.

As an ex officio member, the governor could have attended the board meeting, but he was out of town.

"I think the chairman, Jim Orbison, felt they needed to have a meeting to talk over the concerns," Walters said, adding he didn't know the reasoning behind when and where it was scheduled.

Asked to specify what concerns had been raised about Ridings, Walters said they dealt with management, questions about general expenditures, and "I think, questions about cost." Walters said although some components of the four turnpikes currently under construction have come in under budget, the concerns over expenditures dwelt on the cost of building the roads on a per-mile basis, compared to other highway systems.

Walters said Orbison shared with him that there were some "general concerns," and that Walters encouraged the board to meet promptly and address them.

As it turned out, the four board members who met last Friday were all Walters appointees. Vice Chairman John Kilpatrick, who has served on the board for 32 years, was out of town and unable to attend the special meeting.

"We've made a lot of progress with the turnpike authority, and this weekend we're dedicating several projects that we should be proud of," Walters said, referring to the scheduled opening of the John T. …

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