MCALESTER – The Oklahoma Board of Corrections on Thursday named an interim Department of Corrections director who is a security and political consultant and the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President George W. Bush.
Until recently, Joe Allbaugh, 62, of Austin, Texas, also was a board director for a company that tests marijuana for licensed marijuana dealers in Colorado and Connecticut.
Allbaugh resigned from the board of CannLabs before accepting the corrections job Wednesday, a Corrections Department spokesman said. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show he owned 250,000 shares in the publicly traded company in June, but DOC spokesman Alex Gerszewski said he doesn’t know if Allbaugh still owns the shares.
Allbaugh will begin work Monday, said Board of Corrections Chairman Kevin Gross.
Allbaugh will replace former director Robert Patton, who recently stepped down in the wake of several botched executions that led to investigations.
Allbaugh does not have correctional experience, but Gross cited his political experience, work at FEMA and his later work in establishing Allbaugh International Group LLC, a Washington D.C.-based international security-consulting firm.
Allbaugh owns property near Blackwell, and is originally from Oklahoma, Gross said.
“I am honored by the board’s decision to select me as the interim director,” Allbaugh was quoted as saying in a news release from the Corrections Department. “I am excited to come back home and look forward to working with the legislators during the upcoming legislative session.”
In 1994, Allbaugh managed George W. Bush’s campaign for governor of Texas, and after Bush became governor, served as his chief of staff. He also managed Bush’s successful 2000 presidential campaign.
Bush appointed Allbaugh director of FEMA in 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and he remained in the position until 2003, when FEMA was put under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Allbaugh joined the board of CannLabs as one of four independent directors in 2014, the Denver Post reported. As of June 2015, Allbaugh owned 250,000 shares of CannLabs stock, according to SEC filings.
CannLabs provides to customers potency and other testing for “legalized medical or recreational cannabis along the their associated growers, dispensaries, manufacturers of edibles and others,” according to an SEC filing in October.
On its website, CannLabs describes itself as “the leading cannabis testing laboratory in the country. When you see the CannLabs seal, you know you are buying cannabis that has been tested beyond the required state mandates.”
Gerszewski said Allbaugh became interested in the therapeutic uses of marijuana after his wife’s battle with cancer. In a 2014 interview with the Texas Tribune, Allbaugh said he does not support recreational use of marijuana.
Calls to Allbaugh’s consultancy firm and Cannlabs were not returned late Thursday.
Cannabis sales in Oklahoma are outlawed. Oklahoma, through Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and Nebraska are suing Colorado for selling legalized cannabis. In a recent statement, Pruitt called Colorado’s pot operations a “cartel” and Colorado has created a “massive criminal enterprise” that affects surrounding states.
“The state of Colorado would be prosecuted as a drug cartel if it were based south of the border,” Pruitt said in a news release Wednesday.
Allbaugh is a longstanding Republican party official. In 2007, Allbaugh served as a senior advisor to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, and became manager of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign.
“I don’t know that he has any specific correctional background, but he has a state agency background,” Gross said. “We (the board) made the decision it might be interesting to bring in a guy from the outside.”
Gross said the board did not conduct a formal search, and that Allbaugh had approached board members to express his interest in the position.
Allbaugh earned a B.A. in political science at Oklahoma State University. He is a founding member of Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council and serves on the board of the National Rifle Association.