This story appeared in The Oklahoman on Aug. 30, 1951.
It was written by Ray Parr, The Oklahoman’s well-known political writer and columnist.
It exhibits the humor Parr could bring to a mundane political story.
Fifty years ago, Jay Lee, the director of the Public Welfare Board also known as the emergency relief board, predecessor of the Department of Human Services, found himself in hot water.
He had been appointed by Gov. Roy Turner in 1947 and in 1951, new governor, Johnston Murray, suspended Lee, citing the need for an investigation for “loose handling of funds.”
I’m not sure the actions described below got Lee suspended, but it appeared the day after the announcement of his suspension.
“Cats Eat Rats! Then It’s Up to Bureaucrats!”
“Jay Lee, under suspension as administrator of the state emergency relief board, Wednesday defended the purchase of cat food with department funds.
The food, he said, was purchased for two cats who are working full-time for the state — and doing a fine job of it, too.
The two cats are employed at the surplus commodity warehouse in the 100 block of E Washington. Their duties are to catch rats. They were employed on a merit basis and have no legislative sponsors, Lee said.
Lee said that rats were doing so much damage at the warehouse that the federal government threatened to disqualify the warehouse for storage of the commodities.
Rats were having a field day in the warehouse with sort of a free lunch program of their own.
Lee said they had destroyed large quantities of cheese, raisins and other commodities.
They had never been certified for the free lunch program and the federal government did not approve of the idea of passing out nibbled commodities in the school lunch program. A considerable amount had to be destroyed because of the nibbles.
Lee said lowest estimates of rat exterminators to keep the building free of rats ran from $13 to $20 a month.
The cats didn’t cost anything.
As a matter of fact, they worked for nothing for awhile, under a state and federal agreement that they could eat the captured rats.
But they did such an efficient job, Lee continued, they got rid of the rats. Those that didn’t get on the menu ran away.
Then the cats got hungry. The emergency relief board faced an emergency. if the cats left, the rats would come back.
They would eat the commodities. The federal government would get cross with the state agency. Things would be in a mess.
Lee huddled with his top assistants. A decision was reached.
“We bought a case of cat food.” Lee said Wednesday. “These cats have paid their way 100 times over. It was a good investment.”
Lee got his job back, and four months later resigned. His 1980 obituary noted a 37-year career as a state employee and gave him credit for starting the Hot School Lunch program.