OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s former campaign manager and staff adviser is earning up to $130,000 in CARES Act funds on a state contract.
Donelle Harder, 34, left Stitt’s office in February at a salary of $140,600.
On March 31, she signed a contract with the Oklahoma State Department of Health that began March 16 and ended June 30 for “communication support for the OSDH during the COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease).”
She was paid $27,500, according to information provided by the agency under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
On June 1, she signed another contract with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which was also obtained through the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
The contract is with a company she recently founded called Pliris Strategies.
Steven Harpe, Office of Management and Enterprise Services, signed for the state.
Harpe is a former employee of the mortgage company, Gateway, that Stitt founded. Stitt appointed him to the Board of Corrections, where he served as chairman briefly before going to work for OMES.
Under that contract, also paid for with Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds, she will earn up to $130,000 a year for 28 hours a week of work and being on call.
Oklahoma got more than $1 billion in federal aid under the act.
“Services shall be provided by Donelle Harder, who shall provide twenty-eight (28) hours’ services per week and additionally make herself available anytime upon request,” according to an attachment to the contract. “The State will pay a flat fee of $2,500 a week for such services.”
“I work a lot more than 28 hours on this contract,” Harder said.
She reports to Stitt’s secretary of agency accountability, John Budd.
The contract’s effective date was May 31.
According to that contract, she was in “a position to provide immediate strategic assistance to stakeholders on CARE Act public policy and external factors on the management and distribution of funds as well as assist with communications relating to audits, compliance, legislative requests and other similar needs relating to the used of CARE Act funds.”
Harder said she is uniquely positioned to assist the state on the management of the federal COVID dollars due to her early involvement with the Oklahoma State Department of Health during the onset of the virus and her experience in state and federal government.
“Quite frankly, my salary is going to help address the needs Oklahomans want solved,” she said. “My job is to ensure that we are getting those resources to the front lines and communicating so people know to tap into it.”
Harder was also paid on an hourly basis for consulting with Ryan Whaley.
The law firm as of July 23 had been paid $746,345.92 to represent Stitt in a legal dispute with tribes over gaming compacts.
Harder said the firm was inquiring about her institutional knowledge about the past year when she was in the Governor’s Office.
She said she has not done anything for the firm recently but has an ongoing retainer should she be called upon again by the law firm.
Harder holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.
Before joining Stitt’s campaign, Harder was vice president at the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association. She also worked for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
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