Is bribery “repugnant” to the Oklahoma constitution?
OKLAHOMA – A 16 billion dollar refund is at stake for customers of the old Southwestern Bell telephone company.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission was discussing, once again, the case that dates back to the 1980’s.
It could boil down to $17,000 for each Oklahoma telephone number from 1987 to 1994.
A lot of decisions have to be made before that could happen and, at Wednesday’s Corporation Commission meeting, they focused on one word – an unusual one that could have an impact on whether Oklahomans ever seen that money.
It’s not a word most of use every day.
Repugnance can mean intense disgust.
Repugnancy, in a legal term, means an inconsistency or opposition.
It’s now the question before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
“That’s one of the big questions is whether we’re going to just dismiss this case or whether we’re going to have a new trial as authorized by law,” said Commissioner Bob Anthony.
The case takes us all the way back to 1986, when the feds lowered income tax rates for corporations.
Southwestern Bell, now AT&T, asked the Corporation Commission if they could keep the extra $30 million rather than give it back to customers.
In 1989, the commission voted 2-1 to allow the company to keep it.
But Commissioner Bob Hopkins was later found guilty of accepting a $15,000 bribe from a phone company attorney for his yes vote.
A group of prominent citizens now says that vote is void and they want that money, plus interest, back in the hands of Oklahomans.
“It oughtta be resolved, you know, it’s been long enough,” said retired Lt. Gen. Richard Burpee.
Burpee is one of the plaintiffs on that application.
He attended Wednesday’s meeting and was disappointed no vote was taken.
“They oughtta get on with it. We just can keep perpetuating this thing, perpetuating it. But, this isn’t going to solve anything until they make a decision,” said Burpee.
Commissioner Dana Murphy was not at the meeting Wednesday, so they decided to wait until all three commissioners are present to take the vote.
If they vote that bribery is “repugnant” to the constitution, that could mean that the case will be heard over again before the Corporation Commission.
A spokesperson for AT&T sent us this brief statement.
“It’s disappointing that Commissioner Anthony continues to dredge up closed issues from a quarter century ago.”