Analysis: In apparent response to a Tulsa Today story posted Wednesday July 30, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) issued a press release Friday August 1 to claim success from the recent elimination of public meetings Monday, Wednesday and Friday “aimed at making processes more efficient for staff, stakeholders and regulated industries are reflected by an increase in a key work measure,” the release claimed.
“An 8 month ‘snapshot’ of Commission activity featured in the release shows the number of orders issued by the Commission has increased since the changes were made,” the release quotes Chairman Bob Anthony and the Vice Chairman and candidate for the 5th Congressional seat, Patrice Douglas – the only commissioners who voted for the change.
A comparison of the number of cases filed for the first 4 months to the second 4 months shows a 17% increase. (10739 in first 4 months and 12556 in second 4 months) However comparing the same time period for hearings held only shows a 4.9% increase. (4447 to 5211).
Further, in the first four months 47.9% of cases filed received a hearing while only 43.0% received a hearing in the 2nd 4 month period.
The increase in cases is a result of cases filed not better process or efficiency.
Commissioner Dana Murphy who objected to the change in February told Tulsa Today, “I had reservations about this change then and I have reservations about this change today.”
Commissioner Murphy was not quoted in the release. Further, Commission staff sources said she was not consulted in the preparation of the release nor did she know about it until the day it went out.
The entire February 18 meeting was recorded and was posted with the first Tulsa Today story; “Commissioner running on our time less work” and follows.
The previous story asked if, now five months later, any study or survey of stakeholders or staff had been done to report on how the reduced meeting schedule was working and Commissioner Douglas answered plainly, “No.”
This OCC release is an apparent attempt to tally work regularly accomplished and claim everything is fine by documenting existing workload without, again, any definitive study or forum for staff, stakeholders or regulated industries to talk openly and publicly about the change made for implementation in two weeks changing a 35 year established meeting schedule.
Further it does not address an issue of ex parte communications Commissioner Murphy raised in February. An ex parte decision is one decided by a judge without requiring all of the parties to the controversy to be present.
Murphy in February said, “I still have this issue that no one seems to have brought up at all about ex parte communications on things that are judicial matters. There is another issue with that and there has been no discussion of that. I don’t have any problem with a motion that moves process forward but some arbitrary March 1st decision without really the basis for all of it – I just can’t support that and I think it is not taking into account the people and their voices have not been heard.
“I would like to have further discussion on this and that the attorneys downstairs that actually do the actual cases have some input and give us some suggestions on a way that things can be processed better, but just for us to decide and tell our staff what to do – I just cannot support that. I just can’t and I won’t.” Murphy said.
“I’m going to go ahead and mention that we all received an email this morning and I’ll just read the last line on it, ‘I would request that as this item is being discussed please keep the issue of transparency in mind and if substantial procedural changes are to be considered that there be sufficient time to vet the process from the various stakeholders,’” Murphy said.
The letter was from a member of staff then present and Murphy asked the author if anyone had gotten their input on the proposed change. The answer was, “No.”
Commissioner Douglas then declares, “I don’t know if I got that email or not, but I would still stick with my original idea.”
Murphy then said, “My vote is no and I want to make it clear that I will be out here on Monday, Wednesday and Friday without a court reporter with the microphones on so if I have any questions or if there are any issues that need to be raised, people can actually hear those and it won’t be done back behind closed doors and people won’t really know what is going on so the rest of you can do what you want but that is what I plan to do so there won’t be any confusion or if there is a question that needs to be raised.”
True to her word, Commissioner Murphy attended a meeting last Monday that discussed Smart Meters – an issue of growing concern to environmentalists, privacy activists and those with safety concerns. Murphy was the only commissioner to attend that meeting.
While Douglas may stick with her “original idea” the obvious reason for adhesion is not the function of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, but an obvious desire to free herself from duty and obligation to taxpayers in the effort to win a Congressional office.
It is clear from the tape that an “understanding” between Commissioners Douglas and Anthony prevented any counter argument of fact or logic presented by Commissioner Murphy to sway them. Also absent was common courtesy to a fellow commissioner.
For the previous Tulsa Today story click on the link “Commissioner running on our time less work”