Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office said this week there is no connection between the Oklahoma State University College of Health Sciences’ receiving $197.5 million from the state’s settlement with Purdue Pharma and OSU-CHS’ November hiring of Hunter’s son to an administrative job.
“It is absurd to link Barrett Hunter’s employment with any decisions made in this settlement or any other matter involving the Attorney General’s Office,” Mike Hunter’s spokesman, Alex Gerszewski, said in an email.
“The settlement agreement reached reflects a collective decision by attorneys with both the state and Purdue,” said Gerszewski. “Further, the settlement, including the funds designated for (OSU-CHS), was approved by Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman.”
OSU-CHS confirmed that Barrett Hunter was “identified” for the $85,000-a-year job as director of compliance in November and began work at the beginning of January.
The Purdue settlement was announced in March.
As director of compliance, Barrett Hunter “is responsible for implementing a comprehensive program to manage the regulatory, financial and reputational risk for the OSU Center for Health Sciences and its related entities,” according to the position’s job description. He is in charge of making sure the college follows federal laws and regulations as well as internal procedures.
Barrett Hunter is a University of Tulsa alumnus and a 2017 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Before moving to OSU-CHS, he was an attorney for the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Mike Hunter has come under fire for the unusual Purdue settlement, which resulted in most of the $270 million payout going into a foundation to support the OSU-CHS’ Center for Wellness and Recovery.
Hunter said that without the arrangement Purdue likely would have declared bankruptcy, in which case the state would have received nothing.
“The two options on the table were sending the money to the OSU-CHS Center for Wellness and Recovery or receiving nothing because Purdue was exploring bankruptcy, which would have likely eliminated any chance the state had to recover any funds from Purdue,” Gerzewski said.