Election Editorial: It is not just because Tulsa Today broke the story of Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner and current candidate for Oklahoma’s District 5 Congressional seat, Patrice Douglas, abusing authority that inspires this call to not elect. It is the manipulation of her current statewide position and abuse of authority in that effort to advance to higher office. The standard we apply is Abraham Lincoln’s.
Lincoln said, “…if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Patrice Douglas’ character is well demonstrated in a recording provided with this and earlier reports. It is clear from the audio of the February 18, 2014 Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) public meeting that Douglas proceeded from an attitude of self-interest without regard of consequences to; the Oklahoma economy, work of the Commission, staff perspectives or the dissenting Commissioner’s objections.
The good people of District 5 will make their decision August 26, but what Douglas did to Oklahoma may need to be addressed by legislation or Constitutional change so it never happens again.
Addressing items she placed on the agenda late Friday afternoon for the Monday meeting; Douglas first ignored long running discussions for orderly and regular transition of the Chairmanship. With three elected officials comprising OCC it only takes two to agree to pass any measure and Commissioner Bob Anthony was fully on-board with Douglas’ political plan. Douglas moved to elect Anthony as Chairman. He agreed and responded that Douglas should be elected vice-chairman at the same time.
The motion came after Douglas had explained, “I have made a little announcement and I am not going to be spending all of my additional time at the Commission. I am going to be doing all the work that is assigned to me, but also conducting a campaign for Congress. So I want the folks here to have the full benefit of what is needed. So I think at this time Commissioner Anthony would be a great replacement for me.”
The next item on the agenda from Douglas changed a 35-year work schedule of daily meetings to only meeting twice a week. Douglas’ motion made this change effective in two weeks thus significantly reducing her OCC work schedule.
It is not uncommon for political candidates to take leave of absence from a job to run for office. A political campaign is a full time job. Some may utilize vacation time or authorized sick leave, but Tulsa Today has found no other instance where a statewide elected official reduced their public duties to this degree – from five days a week to two. Douglas did not volunteer to reduce her publicly funded salary.
It is important to note that OCC faces one of the most intense work loads of any group of elected public officials in the state. The three commissioners address regulatory and judicial matters including permitting critical to the economic health of the state and fundamental to individual businesses engaged in oil and gas production, utilities, transportation and others.
This change was not considered in the regular process of OCC’s strategic planning nor did staff have an opportunity to thoughtfully evaluate and comment on the change. To the contrary and on extremely short notice; one email from staff was sent to all three Commissioners the morning of the meeting asking that, “…if substantial procedural changes are to be considered that there be sufficient time to vet the process from the various stakeholders. [Audio 24:11]
Commissioner Dana Murphy asked the letter writer who attended the meeting if anyone had gotten their input on the change. The answer was, “no”
Patrice Douglas as Chairman of OCC forced a reduction of transparent public activity upon an important statewide agency to facilitate her campaign for a higher office.
With her one political collaborator, Douglas had the power and used it to ignore; objections, regular order, established procedures and common courtesy to a fellow commissioner.
Oklahomans should now consider organizing with more specifics the power and processes of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Suggestions for improvement include; specifying a length of time for chairman and the regular rotation of that authority, expanding to five commission seats and, rather than statewide elections, electing the commissioners by Congressional Districts within the State. At the least; the Oklahoma Legislature should review and consider these and other changes to help OCC become more effective, responsive, and transparent to the people of Oklahoma.
Regardless, Patrice Douglas showed her character wielding power by her own words in the following audio recording as Chairman of OCC when her political ambition was engaged for advancement.
The question for District 5 voters; does the character Douglas demonstrates represent Oklahoma? Will that character, as demonstrated in the recording, be good for America or the interests of Oklahoma if empowered at the Federal level? What would Abraham Lincoln say?
Previous stories on Tulsa Today may be found at the links below:
Commissioner running on our time less work (Published July 30, 2014)
Douglas doubles down (Published August 4, 2014)
Editor’s Note: “Disendorsement” is a term coined by the author in previous election cycles summarizing opinion based on knowledge of or experience with a candidate that suggests the opposite of an endorsement for election.