Attorney General sacks State Treasurer’s legal counsel in energy discrimination lawsuit

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond obviously didn’t like the ruling by an Oklahoma County District Court judge regarding the lawsuit filed against the state treasurer over enforcement of the state’s energy discrimination elimination Act.

He fired the hand-picked attorneys who represented Treasurer Todd Russ in the lawsuit filed by state retiree Don Keenan who challenged the constitutionality of the two year old law that was designed to stop financial firms from discriminating against the oil and gas industry.

In firing the Plaxico Law firm and attorneys Cheryl Plaxico and Austin Moseley, the attorney general said he also removed the Treasurer from any decision-making authority in the lawsuit.

“It is extremely disappointing that the counsel hired by Treasurer Russ was unable to secure a favorable ruling in defense of Oklahoma’s anti-ESG law,” Drummond said. “Because of this failure, the law is now on hold and at risk of being struck down entirely. Oklahomans deserve better.”

Drummond said he had initially chosen a separate firm to serve as outside counsel on the matter but deferred to Russ after the treasurer insisted on selecting his own attorney to defend the law. The Attorney General said he now regrets extending that professional courtesy.

“Treasurer Russ was insistent that he be allowed to choose his own counsel to defend the lawsuit, and I acquiesced,” said Drummond. “No longer will I allow professional courtesy to influence my decisions on this matter. Effective immediately, I have terminated Treasurer Russ’s hand-picked counsel and removed the treasurer from any decision-making role in the lawsuit. My office will handle all elements of the case moving forward.”

In response to the firing, Treasurer Russ told something of a different story.

“When asking the Attorney General to take my case, he refused. So, I was left with no other choice but to choose who I was most comfortable representing me,” said Russ in a statement.

“My constitutional office as the State Treasurer makes me party to the lawsuit, and therefore I don’t believe my decision-making authority can be removed. Certainly, I am disappointed with the outcome but have several facts for appeal. I had hoped to have the Attorney General as my defender all along.”

 Before selecting counsel to represent the Treasurer, the first request was to Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s office. After offering the case to the AG, he was informed by Trebor Worthen, Chief of Staff to the AG, that he was declining to take case, but would recommend outside counsel. The Treasurer again personally approached Drummond to be his defender for the lawsuit. However, his office only engaged in recommending a different choice in counsel. At which time, the Treasurer selected his own outside counsel per his right through the 20i process.

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday stood by the Act and by the actions of Treasurer Russ.

“The treasurer had the authority to do it, so disappointed in that judge’s ruling,” Stitt said. “I don’t know how anybody could argue that.”

He signed the measure into law when the legislature passed it in 2022.

“We’re not going to let companies come into Oklahoma and attack our oil and gas industry, and that’s what the treasurer was trying to do,” Stitt said. “We think the bill speaks for itself.”