The March 15 tweet was part of an exchange between Shannon and Mickey Hepner, dean of the college of business administration at the University of Central Oklahoma.
After Shannon remarked that Oklahoma would stand against the Affordable Care Act, Hepner tweeted that the Constitution prohibits the state from ignoring federal laws.
Shannon replied with a tweet that some House Democrats felt was a thinly veiled threat: “@MickeyHepner a good place to start eliminating the waste in administration in our higher Ed system. Too many bureaucrats w(ith) too much time.”
State Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said it appeared Shannon was attacking someone who disagreed with him by threatening his job.
“We should be encouraging experts and scholars to participate in our policy discussions,” she said, “not intimidating them and foreclosing conversation.”
A spokesman for the speaker said Shannon was not threatening anyone’s job.
“The speaker stands by his statement,” said Joe Griffin, his communications director. “We have too much waste in higher education bureaucracy. Funds can be used in other ways that will positively impact students.”
He added that Shannon was also responding to a tweet in which Hepner wrote that education was underfunded.
Hepner declined comment on the exchange.
Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, called Shannon’s words about college administrators “unfounded.”
“At a time when the governor’s office has declared it a statewide goal to statistically increase our number of college graduates, the speaker should put away the partisan, vindictive pulpit and focus his attention on helping Oklahomans achieve that goal,” Williams said.
Griffin called the exchange a difference in worldviews and referred to the opposition as “educrats” who feel threatened by the speaker’s philosophy.