Attorney General opinion could affect operations of state boards

Thursday, December 16th 2004, 6:24 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State and local officials are forbidden under the state constitution from entering into business contracts with the governmental agencies they represent, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Wednesday in an opinion.

State Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, sought the opinion because of concerns about operations at the Oklahoma Environmental Quality Board.

He said he does not recall the exact situation that led to his question last spring, and did not have immediate access to further documentation on the issue.

The question concerned whether a member of the Environmental Quality Board could have a contractual or business relationship with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Edmondson said he did not have any specific instances where government officials entered into business contracts with their own agencies, and this was a finding of fact that was beyond the scope of his opinion.

Violation of the constitutional provision is a felony, but it's not always followed by governmental officials, Edmondson said in an interview.

"Let's say it has not been religiously observed for many years," he said.

Monty Elder, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, said DEQ attorneys were reviewing the opinion and had no immediate comment.

Elder said she did not know whether any contracts or specific board members would be affected by the opinion.

The governor's office also declined immediate comment, saying its attorneys were also reviewing it.

It is not unusual for businessmen to sit on state boards, because they have direct knowledge of issues that will likely come before those boards.

For example, members of the Environmental Quality Board come from backgrounds in manufacturing, hazardous waste management, the agricultural industry and other specialties.