Sunshine or sunset award?


The same week Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond was praised and honored with the annual Sunshine Award from Freedom of Information Oklahoma over his efforts to promote open government in the state, his office revealed Drummond supports a bill in the legislature that some believe would be closer to “sunset”on openness at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

FOI Oklahoma, in announcing Drummond’s honor, stated, “His dedication to open government sets an example for others to follow.”

When asked by OK Energy Today about whether the Attorney General opposed Rep. Tammy Townley’s HB2367 to exempt the Corporation Commission from some of the Public Meetings Act, a spokesman for Drummond replied.

“Our office has been in communication with the Oklahoma Press Association. As they have indicated they don’t have a problem with the bill, we concur. As with all legislation, though, we are monitoring it for any changes in language or intent.”

OK Energy Today also asked FOI Oklahoma Executive Director Kurt Gwartney whether the organization had taken a stand on HB2367.

“At this time, as an organization, FOI Oklahoma has not taken a public stance on HB2367. I am monitoring its progress through the legislative process,” he replied.

A similar request was made twice to Oklahoma State University Journalism Professor Joey Senat, considered an open records and public meetings expert in the state. He did not respond.

The bill, which was opposed last week by Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, won unanimous approval in a state House Committee but has yet to go to the full House for consideration.

Rep. Townley’s bill, known as the Corporation Commission Efficiency Act, would allow the three commissioners to hold certain meetings without the knowledge of the public. The bill cited 11 exemptions from the Public Meeting Act including discussion of internal processes, staffing needs, public statements and receiving informational updates from staff on the business of the Commission.

Rep. Townley wants to allow Commissioners to hold regular staff meetings where discussions of the day-to-day management of the commission occur.

Corporation Commissioner Anthony is in total disagreement with Townley and stated so in an opinion piece published by OK Energy Today.

“HB 2367 is an attempt to slam the lid down and nail shut the coffin that the Corporation Commission has attempted to build for the very costly cover-up that the special interests orchestrated to conceal their multi-billion-dollar 2021 Winter Storm profiteering and bail-outs at the expense of Oklahoma ratepayers.”

He based his opposition largely on what happened to consumers and how they will bear the brunt of the 2021 winter storm costs for the next quarter century.

“Personally, I believe the activities, meetings and records of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and its individual commissioners deserve more, not less, scrutiny – by the public, the news media, the State Auditor, the legislature, and anyone else interested to learn the truth about why Oklahoma ratepayers will be paying some $5 billion over the next 2.5 decades for two-weeks-worth of energy usage in February 2021 that should have cost a tiny fraction of that. ”

Under current law, Commissioners are not technically allowed to have contact where they might discuss issues before the regulatory body. As a result, aides for the commissioners often carry the communication to other aides, a process that has been going on since statehood when the Commission was created.