Transparency for efficiency?

by Steve Fair

On March 10, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony penned a guest op/ed for The Oklahoman (available online). In the column, Anthony addressed HB2367 authored by Rep. Tammy Townley, (R-Ardmore) and Sen. Dave Rader, (R-Tulsa). The bill is known as the Corporation Commission Efficiency Act. The bill would exempt the Corporation Commission from adhering to the Open Meetings Act found in Title 25 of the Oklahoma Statutes. HB2367 would require the Commission to publish information/documentation on upcoming votes 48 hours prior to that vote. HB2367 passed the House 54-32 with 15 members not voting ( The bill now goes to the Senate.

Anthony, who has served on the Commission since 1989, says the Corporation Commission is already conducting the vast majority of their business (80%) behind closed doors. He says the Open Meetings are only held at the agency to cast in-bulk, order-approval votes, calling that a ‘nod’ to transparency.

Advocates for the HB2367l say current restrictions on the Commission have resulted in administrative bottlenecks and long delays in rulings. Three observations:

First, the Commission needs to be more efficient. The Corporation Commission does more than just regulate utility rates. It regulates the exploration and production of oil and gas and how it is transported and stored. It deals with the rates and services of public utilities. It is involved in Internet coverage at schools and libraries. The Commission has lots on its plate and delayed rulings/decision cost companies, and eventually consumers, money.

Conducting public business in the open is slow and inefficient. Most of those who attend Open Meetings are people with an ‘ax to grind.’ They question the honesty/integrity of those who disagree with them. They are somehow able to magically discern the heart/motive of their nemesis. They believe they are the only honest people in a room. They can be a drag and irritation, but all Oklahomans, even those described, have a right to know what a powerful agency like the Corporation Commission is doing. Can HB2367 make the agency more efficient without damaging its transparency to citizens? That is the question.

Second, what is the objective of the bill? According to Anthony, the bill is being run to ‘bury the truth.’ Anthony claims Oklahoma electric providers were granted a rate increase in 2021 that was excessive. After the February 2021 ice storm all electric providers in the state applied for a rate hike with the Commission to recoup their losses and only Anthony voted no. For over two years, Anthony has been at odds with his two counterparts on the Commission, claiming they have stonewalled his attempts to release records and information. Anthony sees this bill as an attempt to keep the public from knowing about the 2021 rate hike.

People can honestly disagree and not be crooks. Bob Anthony is an honest man. That is not in question. Anthony’s cooperation with the FBI in 1994 (he wore a wire), led to the bribery conviction of fellow Commissioner Bob Hopkins. No one knows the motive of another person, but its hard to connect the dots that Anthony claims exists. They may be there, but not everyone who disagrees with you is a charlatan. Authors of the bill say the motive of the bill is to improve the efficiency/effectiveness of the Commission and that is a worthy goal.

Third, HB2367 is ‘sunset’ in two years. If it doesn’t work, it goes away, unless the legislature votes to extend. But who determines if it worked? If the Commissioners, are the jurists, they will be grading their own test. If HB2367 proves to make them more efficient, unclogs the bottleneck and streamlines their workload, they will likely give it an ‘A.” Oklahomans who conduct business before the Commission might agree with the Commissioners if delays are reduced and decisions timelier.

The real judge on whether HB2367 is good legislation must be Oklahoma citizens. Before it gets implemented, citizens/voters should ask their legislators: will HB2367 cloud/hide/obscure the business of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission? Will HB2367 make it easier or harder to get information from the Commission?

Exempting a state agency from Open Meetings laws is a slippery slope and should never be done to improve government productivity. Trading transparency for efficiency is never a good idea

Steve Fair is Vice Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at His blog is