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Director, chief of staff to resign from Oklahoma’s juvenile agency

Dec 19, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

Looming budget cuts and talk of consolidation has led two top staff members at the Office of Juvenile Affairs to resign, officials say. Executive Director Keith Wilson, in an email this week, notified the board chairman he intends to resign effective Dec. 31. Wilson, a retired judge, has served as director since 2012. Wilson is leaving the agency due to “changing circumstances,” said Paula Christiansen, an agency spokeswoman. Chief of Staff Jim Adams also is resigning, she said.

By Jennifer Palmer | December 18, 2015

Looming budget cuts and talk of consolidation has led two top staff members at the Office of Juvenile Affairs to resign, officials say.

Executive Director Keith Wilson, in an email this week, notified the board chairman he intends to resign effective Dec. 31.

Wilson, a retired judge, has served as director since 2012.

Wilson is leaving the agency due to “changing circumstances,” said Paula Christiansen, an agency spokeswoman.

Chief of Staff Jim Adams also is resigning, she said.

Elaborating on Wilson’s resignation, board Chairman Donnie Nero said Wilson is concerned about the possibility that OJA would be consolidated with another agency as the Legislature works to plug next year’s estimated $900 million budget hole.

“There may have been a little conflict with some of the issues related to budget … or some in the Legislature that want to take OJA in a different direction,” Nero said Thursday.

OJA, which oversees the state’s incarcerated juveniles, was appropriated $99 million this fiscal year, a $2.5 million increase from last year.

The agency is bracing for a projected 5 to 10 percent budget cut, Nero said. The board meets Friday and on the agenda is an item to discuss and possibly take action on the “pending revenue failure.”

Nero said the Legislature is considering consolidating OJA with the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services or the Department of Human Services, but there is no firm plan to do so. Nero is opposed to consolidation.

“I think it would be detrimental to the agency,” he said.

The board also will discuss Wilson’s resignation. According to an agenda, it will discuss choosing an interim director and accepting applications to fill the director position permanently.

This summer, OJA opened the Oklahoma Youth Academy, a charter school operating at both boys facilities: Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh and Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs also took over the state’s only facility for incarcerated girls after the former operator dropped its contract.

Wilson’s expected resignation comes under similar circumstances as the retirement of another agency director, Darrell Weaver. Weaver retired as director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control on Nov. 15.

Weaver reportedly opposed a legislative plan to consolidate the bureau with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.