Saturday, April 21, 2007

Commissioner’s office may already be vacant
By John Wylie

(Note: The following was submitted this morning by former Corporation Commission candidate John Wylie, D-Oologah.)

Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode has failed to protect Oklahomans from the fallout of her decision to run a new natural gas lobbying group and may already have forfeited her office, a leading Democratic expert on the commission said Saturday.

“Denise Bode has recused herself from all matters involving Chesapeake Energy, but she must go further and step aside in any case involving power production. In addition, she should immediately disclose when she first started discussions about this new position—which she appears to have had a major role in creating—so that parties to recently decided cases can decide if they have grounds to challenge her impartiality,” said John Wylie, the 2004 Democratic candidate for Corporation Commissioner.

Monday’s commission agenda shows just how serious the problem is. There are two items on the 24-hour signing agenda; one is final approval for an order in the five-year-old case involving a proposed cogeneration plant in Lawton where fuel selection has been a key issue.

On the daily signing agenda, more than one quarter of the cases—12 out of 46—directly involve Chesapeake. Other cases may affect the company, something that cannot be determined just from an agenda listing.

“If Denise Bode acted properly, she could not take part in half of Monday more complex cases and one-quarter of the more routine cases. Taxpayers are not getting the value of her salary, and more recusals are sure to come. She must seriously consider making her resignation effective immediately, to prevent waste of tax dollars and allow the immediate appointment of a commissioner who can carry his or her full share of the work,” Wylie said. “Bode’s limited recusal is too little, too late.”

In fact, he noted, Bode’s office may already have become vacant under Article 9, Section 16 of the Oklahoma Constitution due to her involvement in the new organization.

Bode on Friday announced that she will resign her seat effective May 31 to head a new Washington-based group, the American Clean Skies Foundation, which will promote natural gas use and engage in the political debate over global warming. Chesapeake Energy is a founding member.

Wylie is a longtime Democratic activist and publisher of the Oologah Lake Leader newspaper who has covered national and international energy issues for three decades. He currently serves as Precinct 15 chair in Rogers County, a position being used to develop a prototype grass-roots organizing strategy for the county party.

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