For the past six years, state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger has been a member of the Royal Order of Jesters, a secretive social club that celebrates drinking and bills itself as “a luxury organization” only for those “who can afford it.”

Doerflinger was inducted into the Tulsa chapter of the Royal Order of Jesters, affiliated with the Akdar Shrine, in 2010, according to a roster and handbook obtained by The Frontier.


State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger posed for this photo at his first meeting of the Royal Order of Jesters in 2010. He says he stopped paying dues in the group last year and is no longer active.

State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger posed for this photo at his first meeting of the Royal Order of Jesters in 2010. He says he stopped paying dues in the group last year and is no longer active.

Outside of Oklahoma, the Royal Order of Jesters has been involved in controversies including allegations of sex tourism with underage girls during fishing trips in Brazil and parties featuring prostitutes in several states. However, the Oklahoma chapters have not been linked to such activities.

Doerflinger, the state’s top budget officer, has come under fire recently for his handling of the state budget, comments about education funding and an alcohol-related arrest last year. A Democratic lawmaker filed a resolution this week seeking Doerflinger’s removal and a Tulsa citizens group, We The People Oklahoma, has also started a petition calling on Gov. Mary Fallin to replace him.

Doerflinger declined several requests from The Frontier for an interview about his membership in the group but released a statement through a spokesman:

“It’s something I did at the request of a business friend years ago that has never intersected with my public service. I’m not active anymore because I’m busy enough and it never interested me much. I have been inactive since last year when I stopped paying dues.”

Doerflinger did not respond to follow up questions about when he ended his membership in the group.

In August, an investigation by The Frontier revealed that former Sheriff Stanley Glanz had circulated a letter — written by political advisor Terry Simonson — at a Jesters meeting criticizing We The People Oklahoma. The Tulsa-based citizens group led a grand jury drive to oust the longtime sheriff after a scandal involving his reserve deputy program and the shooting death of Eric Harris.

The letter called the group’s leader, Marq Lewis, “the front face” and claimed the group’s protests and petition drive were actually “jackpot justice” orchestrated by Harris’ attorney.

Glanz joined the Royal Order of Jesters in 2009, one year before Doerflinger. He was indicted by the grand jury on two misdemeanor counts in September and stepped down in November.

The Royal Order of Jesters is an invitation-only social club that inducts no more than 13 members each year, according to its bylaws. Group members are expected to attend monthly Jester functions, which in 2011 included weekend parties at ranches, lodges and country clubs.

Doerflinger said he attended “a few tame dinner meetings.”

“The few times I attended were noneventful gatherings of family men, many of them Tulsa community leaders, from whom I saw no behavior out of any sort of norm. It was nothing like some of the things written on the Internet about these groups in other states.”

The group’s Tulsa “court” has about 150 members, and in the roster, all are white men.

The Jesters handbook includes the group’s pledge: “What I see here, what I hear here, shall stay here when I leave here” and a creed that says members “must also be a gentleman even when the wine flows in.”

Lewis said the group is concerned that the state’s top financial officer “is a part of a secret society and they have to take an oath.”

“Here we have a secret society organization that was founded right after the 1921 race riot. Everyone is white male, there are no African Americans, no females,  no Latinos. … It’s a white male only club in 2016.”

The Jesters’ bylaws do not exclude women or minorities. However the oath that members take could conflict with a state law prohibiting those in public office from belonging to certain organizations.

At the time he was selected to join the group, Doerflinger was the city of Tulsa’s auditor, an elected position. He and four other new Jesters were initiated in the spring of 2010, about eight months before Fallin appointed Doerflinger as the state’s top budget officer.

His role in state government has grown considerably since then to include a wide array of administrative and financial responsibilities consolidated under the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Records show the members of the Tulsa Royal Order of Jesters include executives in numerous businesses that may be doing business with or regulated by agencies under Doerflinger’s authority: construction, concrete and manufacturing companies as well as banks and insurance firms.

However Deorflinger said he has never been approached at a Jester’s meeting to discuss business that a member had involving the government.

The IRS has granted non-profit status to at least three Jester groups in Oklahoma, with the Tulsa chapter taking in far more money than chapters in Muskogee and Norman. The Tulsa chapter’s latest financial report states the group took in $154,000 in membership dues and spent nearly all of that on “meetings and social programs to promote brotherhood and friendship.”

The Jesters’ slogan is “Mirth is King” and its crowned mascot is the billiken, a pot-bellied comical charm doll known as the “God of Things as They Ought to Be.” Many of the group’s rituals revolve around William Shakespeare and parties often involve a play about the Bard’s death.

The billiken is a clown-like figure that serves as the mascot for the Royal Order of Jesters. The group's slogan is "mirth is king."

The billiken is a clown-like figure that serves as the mascot for the Royal Order of Jesters. The group’s slogan is “mirth is king.”

In addition to being one of five men inducted into the exclusive group in 2010, Doerflinger was also named “Mr. Laughter” that year. The award is bestowed upon “the neophyte in each class who best demonstrated the quality of mirth,” according to the Tulsa group’s handbook.

It also includes the Jester’s toast which includes the following lines: “There are times in life when the chap that lies, is the only friend that’s true, So cavil and rant, ye prudes who will, of the evil of wine and gin, But somehow the real true things we feel leak out when the wine flows in. A fool is a fool — a cad is a cad, whichever God meant him to be; But a man that’s a man won’t forget he’s a man even if out on a spree.”

In January 2015, Doerflinger was arrested by Oklahoma City police on a complaint of actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. He had been arguing with a woman in his car and according to a story in The Oklahoman, “The officer reported Doerflinger had the odor of alcohol on his breath, seemed confused and … was unsteady on his feet.”

Doerflinger mug

State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger was arrested last year on a complaint of actual physical control of a vehicle. Court records do not reflect an outcome in the case.

That arrest is among several issues cited by We The People Oklahoma in a petition calling on Fallin to remove Doerflinger from his post. The petition and a bill filed by a state lawmaker last week also cite political comments Doerflinger made about an education funding proposal.

The bill by Rep. Mike Brown, a Tahlequah Democrat, calls on Fallin to remove him from his appointed post, saying he “used his position to engage in overtly political actions.”

The state is facing a $1 billion shortfall next fiscal year and has had to slash services this year due to revenue failures. Many observers say Doerflinger as state finance secretary bears some responsibility for the budget shortfalls.

After lawmakers narrowly defeated bills for a school voucher program that would have diverted even more funds away from education, Doerflinger lashed out during a radio interview earlier this month. As reported by several state media outlets, Doerflinger said he was “embarrassed” to be a Republican and that Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister is “a D in Republican clothes.”

He later said he would “temper” those comments if he had the opportunity.

While it’s unclear how active the finance secretary is in the Tulsa Jesters, the fact that Doerflinger was a member when chosen for such a prominent state post is likely to fuel additional criticism. The group’s celebration of wealth, exclusivity and drinking parties contrasts starkly with the situation many of the state’s poorest citizens are in due to budget cutbacks and the slumping oil and gas market.

The Tulsa chapter’s handbook describes it as “a luxury organization — for only those who
can qualify and who can afford it.”

“Any man proposed for membership should be of such financial ability that his dues assessments and expenditures incidental to his membership will cause no embarrassment or deprivation to his family, business associates, or any others to whom he may at any time be obligated,” the bylaws state.

John Rosell, a director of the Akdar Shrine in Tulsa, told The Frontier in August that the Jesters are “a subsidiary unit” of the Akdar Shrine. He said members must be Freemasons and then a member of a masonic organization such as the Akdar Shrine to be considered for invitation-only membership in the Royal Order of Jesters.

He described the group as “pretty top secret” and said he didn’t know who the members were.

In a 2012 tax dispute with the state of Indiana, International Royal Order of Jesters’ Executive Director Alex Rogers was questioned about any public benefit the group provides.

“Mr. Rogers admitted that the Jesters ‘don’t hold ourselves out and publicize ourselves as givers or as charitable benefactors,’ ” the ruling from the Indiana Board of Tax Review states.

The ruling rejected the group’s claim for non-profit status for a 5,000-square-foot Jesters museum in Indiana.

According to a website that tracks the group, the Royal Order of Jesters’ 22,000 members nationwide include many judges, politicians and law enforcement officials. The Tulsa chapter roster lists one judge, Special Judge Bill Hiddle.

Jesters’ parties are known as “books” and occur over three or four-day weekends.

A 2009 story in the Buffalo News detailed a federal investigation into the Jesters that resulted in guilty pleas from a retired state Supreme Court justice, his former clerk and a retired police captain for taking prostitutes across state lines to Jesters events.

In 2011, a human rights group sued the Georgia-based operator of a Brazilian fishing tour company on behalf of four underage girls from Brazil. The operator was prosecuted in Brazil for allegedly luring girls as young as 13 to work on fishing boats where they were forced to perform sexual acts with American clients, including 19 members of the Royal Order of Jesters.