Point of View: Integrity Lacking in Government

Step Up to Honesty

By Bob Anthony

The Oklahoman - January 31, 2018

The Step Up Oklahoma plan contains many thoughtfully presented proposals, and explicitly promises to “reform government to increase efficiency and cut abuse.” But some historical context is appropriate.

About 30 years ago, a similar group of business leaders assembled the Academy for State Goals. It hired a respected Midwestern think tank to conduct a study and recommend strategy and policy changes to more effectively guide Oklahoma's future. The first “key recommendation” adopted by the academy in 1987 fell under the category of “Government Reforms.” It read, “Oklahoma's state and local government must be, and must appear to be, honest and efficient.”

Then, as now, I agree that efficiencies without honesty are pointless. Why save taxpayer money just so it can be stolen or misused? Further, honesty, integrity and ethics still cry out for more attention.

Thirty years ago, our citizens were justifiably disgusted with decades of bribery at the Oklahoma Supreme Court and catastrophic corruption involving more than 100 county commissioners, not to mention a governor who went to prison. But since that “number one key recommendation,” we've had an insurance commissioner, a corporation commissioner, a state auditor and a state Senate president pro tem all convicted of bribery, and numerous sheriffs and state legislators charged with or convicted of various wrongdoings including extortion, misappropriation of funds, “willful violation of the law,” “willful neglect of duty,” sexual misconduct, embezzlement and illegally spending campaign funds for personal use.

Lastly, consider the debate over appointing or electing state corporation commissioners that's been rekindled by the Step Up plan. There is no simple answer here, but of the 40 corporation commissioners who have served since statehood, 15 got their start by a governor's appointment. That is well over a third, so there is no need to speculate; just look at the facts. Someone do a study of appointed vs. elected corporation commissioners. A cursory survey reveals “qualifications” for appointment have included losing a race for Congress, being term-limited from the Legislature, working as a paid lobbyist, and representing a regulated utility as a paid attorney before the commission (which apparently doesn't prevent you from then sitting in judgment as a commissioner on cases you had previously worked on). In-depth analysis might identify other reasons to question trusting a governor's judgment over that of the voters.

In a nutshell, any government reform plan should start with concrete measures to improve honesty and integrity among Oklahoma's public servants. First, let's step up to honesty.

Anthony is a member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

© 2018 The Oklahoman

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Bob Anthony - Corporation Commission

Honesty. Integrity. ANTHONY.

Last updated: March 07, 2019.
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