Former Corporation Commissioners urge Bob Anthony to drop new probe

Friday, May 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The list of groups and people opposing an Oklahoma Corporation Commission member's attempt to reopen a 1986 rate case involving Southwestern Bell is growing.

Former Corporation Commissioners Ed Apple and Cody Graves on Thursday called for Commissioner Bob Anthony to resign, accusing him of misusing his power and taxpayer money with a new probe.

``It's unfortunate when someone who is elected as a public official begins thinking they're a unilateral operator and that they have the right and the responsibility to do things unilaterally and forgetting about their responsibility to the people of Oklahoma,'' Apple said at a news conference.

In addition, Anthony's actions could scare business away from the state, Graves said.

``We cannot afford as a state to have capital markets and other businesses and industries look at this state and say, 'Why would I ever want to go there to do business if a deal's never done?''' he said.

Anthony, elected to the commission in 1988, worked undercover with the FBI to investigate a scandal that led to bribery charges against a fellow Corporation Commissioner Bob Hopkins and William Anderson, an outside attorney for Southwestern Bell.

Hopkins and Anderson were fined and sentenced to jail terms.

Anthony declined to comment, but released a statement saying each commissioner has a constitutional duty to confront public corruption and improper conduct.

``The real issues involved here are protecting consumers, following the law, and freedom of information,'' Anthony said. ``When it comes to public utilities, the public has a right to know.''

Anthony filed a notice May 7 saying he would investigate ``past corruption and improper conduct involving the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, its staff and individual customers.'' He did not specifically mention the Bell case, but other said his intent to look into the case is obvious.

The 1989 settlement _ approved by the Corporation Commission and later upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court _ required SBC to invest more than $40 million in infrastructure upgrades.

Anthony dissented to the 1989 order, saying the money should have been refunded to customers. The state Supreme Court in 1991 upheld the commission's decision.

Anthony tried to reopen the settlement in 1996, but was outvoted by Graves and Apple.

Thursday's news conference came three days after union representatives joined state business leaders in urging Anthony to leave the case alone.

Former commissioner and former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts was scheduled to be in the news conference, but he didn't appear.

In a letter written earlier this month, Attorney General Drew Edmondson disagreed that Anthony can conduct his own investigation.