Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners will meet Tuesday to consider either extending their order closing the headquarters building to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic or to end it. The commission is under growing pressure to open the building, if not to the public in general, at least to those attorneys and representatives of companies directly involved in the cases.
It will come as commissioners last week expressed concerns over what Commission Chairman Todd Hiett said was a backlog of more than 200 cases to be handled. Commission staff responded a day later by informing the media that despite the closing of the Jim Thorpe building to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic, the commission was still issuing orders and handling business.
But as the Commission prepares to consider extending the latest closure-order which expires July 22, Commissioner Bob Anthony joined the concern over the growing number of cases that have yet to be handled.
He added to the commission agenda a list of some cases that are at least 14 years old. Commissioner Anthony did the same thing in the past few years in expressing his worries about the commission not handling some cases that focused on fraud.
In his agenda attachment, the commissioner included a 2017 concurring opinion about a 2017 pooling order that, at the time was 11 years old.
” Because Cause CD No. 200604826 is now more than eleven years old,and because it also raises questions about the integrity of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, I suggest the Task
Force start here with its performance review. In my opinion, lack of leadership and failed attention to duty by the commissioners has allowed unnecessary delay and neglect of serious issues in this case.”
He and Commissioner Dana Murphy complained about the growing backlog of cases last year as they considered a case that would possibly be affected by a state supreme court decision.
Commission chairman Hiett, in complaining about the 200 or more cases that cannot be addressed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, also vowed he would not support opening the headquarters building to the public.
“No, I do not think we should open the building,” he said. “But if we hold open hearings, they will have to follow the rules. If they can’t, we won’t be able to hear their case.”