Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Rehash' Claim Made by Bell on Draft Order

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Rehash' Claim Made by Bell on Draft Order

Article excerpt

By Ronda Fears

Journal Record Staff Reporter

After Oklahoma Corporation Commission members discussed a draft order in the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. rate case Tuesday, Bell officials charged that the proposal was nothing more than a rehash of commission staff's position.

The draft order would result in an annual $110 million rate cut, plus Bell would have to refund $166 million to its Oklahoma customers, through credits on phone bills. Bell would also have to make $84 million in network upgrades, mostly in rural Oklahoma.

"Obviously, Mr. Proctor (Jim Proctor, director of the commission's Public Utility Division) wrote this draft, and I haven't seen it. But the numbers, if you look at them, add up to what commission staff requested," said Bell attorney Glen Glass.

"When the commissioner (Bob Anthony) who supposedly drafted the order can't answer questions about it, you know something's wrong."

Anthony distributed the draft order to Commissioners J.C. Watts Jr. and Cody Graves on Friday. It was to be discussed Monday, but Graves was absent. It was also supposed to be available to the public, including the media and Bell, but Watts asked that it be confined to the commissioners since it was not a final order.

At the deliberations session Tuesday, Anthony deferred most questions about details in the draft order _ a 260-page document _ to commission staff attorneys Patricia Morris and Earnest Johnson. But he said their role was merely to insert the proper legal wording on direction of the content from him.

"I claim credit for the entire document," Anthony said after the meeting.

The draft order would produce a higher rate cut and refund than the May 20 recommendation from an administrative law judge that is pending before the commission. The judge, who heard weeks of testimony last fall and winter, however, incorporated various requests from Bell in the recommended package.

According to estimates by Bell and commission staff, the judge's recommendations would produce an annual rate cut of between $39 million and $84 million and a refund of $58 million to $114 million or more. …

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