Court Declines Anthony-ONG

by Ray Tuttle

The Tulsa World - June 14, 1996

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will allow Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony to continue his independent investigation into certain financial transactions of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. 

The court, in a one-line statement Wednesday, declined to assume jurisdiction in the case. 

ONG, the natural-gas transmission and distribution unit of Tulsa-based ONEOK Inc., filed a motion May 13 to stop Anthony's probe and asked the state supreme court to rule on the constitutionality of the query. ONG claims Anthony is violating the company's right to due process and that he's biased against the public utility. 

Anthony called the decision "a victory for open government and the public's right to know. " In his response to ONG's motion, Anthony said any risk of injury to ONG because of the probe was "speculative and remote. " 

"This proves an elected commissioner clearly has the constitutional right to ask questions about what utilities are trying to charge their customers," Anthony said Thursday. "I appreciate the opinion of the court and the fact they gave a timely response. " 

The decision leaves the same legal questions unanswered, said Don Sherry, ONG spokesman. 

"It is important to stress the fact that because the court declined to get involved in no way validates commissioner's Anthony's interpretation of the constitution," Sherry said. 

During arguments last month before Court Referee Wayne Snow, ONG attorney John A. Gaberino Jr. said the company is not hiding any information, but that it believes Anthony is not in a search for the truth. 

ONG is not withholding information, Sherry reiterated. "The issue revolves around the legitimacy of an investigation of a lone commissioner," he said. "We will be responsive to any order of the Corporation Commission, but that does not mean a
request from an individual commissioner," he said. 

Anthony in February initiated an independent investigation into ONG's natural-gas supply contracts after commissioners Cody Graves and Ed Apple declined to go along with his request for a full-commission investigation. 

The contracts in question also involve Tulsa-based Dynamic Energy Resources, Enogex and PanEnergy Field Services Inc. and Enogex Inc., which conducts natural-gas activity for Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. 

Anthony said the investigation will proceed. "We'll keep after it. " 

Several other parties have furnished documents without any protest, he said. 

Dynamic is owned by a prominent Democratic donor and in 1994 placed on its board Michael A. Brown, son of Ron Brown, the commerce secretary who died April 4 in a military plane crash. 

© 1996 The Tulsa World


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