Friday, August 8, 2008

Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth Conflict Of Interest

By Jerry Bohnen/NewsRadio 1000 KTOK ~ What some observers suggested was a possible conflict of interest for State Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth (left) today might not be one, but it's awfully close. While Administrative Law Judge MariBeth Snapp held a hearing today on OG&E's proposed power lines to carry wind-generated electricity from northwest Oklahoma to Oklahoma City, Roth sat in the courtroom listening to the arguments and explanations. Roth was there as a casual observer. Among the 60 gathered for the hearing were Piedmont city officials who object to the location of the power lines. The mayor of Piedmont is Mike Fina, who happens also to be Roth's administrative aide. Before Judge Snapp allowed Piedmont protesters and others to challenge OG&E's power line plans, she made it clear that the Corporation Commission had no authority regarding the location of the power lines. The only decison the Commission could decide was whether OG&E could get a rate hike to pay for the massive power line project. So Fina and other Piedmont city officials didn't get to make their arguments to the judge. Some suggested that it might be a conflict of interest. However, Commissioner Roth will not be voting on any decision about the location of the power lines--only whether he thinks the giant utility should get a rate hike. Still, it raised a question in the minds of some observers--a commissioner listening to testimony while his administrative aide is among those protesters in the audience? With such a close link to the issue, they wonder if Roth might consider recusing himself from the question when it comes before the full commission.

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