Attorney general says cabinet post cannot exist

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Gov. Frank Keating ran afoul of state law when he tried to create a new cabinet post in late May and appoint Russell Perry to it, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said in a legal opinion on Friday.

The opinion was issued at the request of state Sen. Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City, who blocked Perry's appointment as secretary of commerce by refusing to hear his nomination in her Senate Finance Committee.

Monson said the opinion "upholds the relationships of checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches and affirms the rule of law." She said her request affects Perry but was "aimed at a much larger question regarding the Senate's advise and consent powers and whether a governor could circumvent them."

The opinion, signed by Edmondson and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tevington, said state law does not allow the governor to modify his executive cabinet after a 45-day period established at the beginning of his term.

"When the governor attempts to create a cabinet post outside the legislative process more than 45 days after the governor's term begins, the post does not exist; therefore, anyone the governor attempts to appoint to that post is not a cabinet secretary," the opinion said.

Keating, a Republican, said he disagreed with the decision and would ask a district court for a ruling on the matter as soon as possible.

He also said Edmondson had "agreed to a stay" of the ruling until the court rules.

Nothing is in writing, but Keating said he and the Democratic attorney general had "a gentlemen's agreement."

Edmondson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Attorney general opinions on statutory issues have the force and effect of law unless overturned by the courts.

Monson's refusal to hear the nomination of Perry was the focus of a tense political fight at the end of the 2000 legislative session.

Perry, who is black, accused Senate Democratic leaders of racism and of using Monson, who also is black, to derail his appointment.

Monson denied being used, calling the assertion offensive. She said she was concerned about government duplication and that the commerce secretary also should serve as executive director of the Department of Commerce.

Perry is publisher of the Black Chronicle in Oklahoma City. He lives in Edmond.