Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Salary Cut Spurs Graves to Resign

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Salary Cut Spurs Graves to Resign

Article excerpt

"It is with a great deal of regret that I stand here today and tell you I won't be able to finish out my term," Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Cody Graves announced at a press conference Tuesday.

The commissioner said he would be sending a letter to the governor resigning effective July 1. This will give enough time to complete ongoing cases, finish the legislative session and keep commitments to represent the commission at functions already scheduled in June.

He did not announce employment plans saying that he had not felt it was appropriate to begin seeking a job before making the announcement he was leaving the commission. "This was not something that was a consideration until Thursday," Graves said of his resignation. "Beth and I are flying blind," he said of the family's future employment plans. Graves said the decision centered on an attorney general's opinion which if upheld would reduce his salary from $76,000 per year to $50,000 annually. Attorney General Drew Edmondson has asked the District Court for Oklahoma County to issue a declaratory judgment. The opinion notes that it is unconstitutional to raise an elected official's salary in mid-term. The commission salary has been increased twice since Graves' term started in 1993. Commissioner Bob Anthony makes $70,000 while Commissioner Ed Apple receives $76,000. Graves is the only Democrat on the three-member panel. The Legislature amended the Oklahoma Constitution so that all three commissioners would receive the higher salary. However, Edmondson's opinion found that other constitutional prohibitions against increasing salaries of elected officials in mid-term should prevail. "This is purely a personal decision," Graves said. "I cannot ask my family to make this additional sacrifice. If I could, I would stay." He said he personally did not feel comfortable joining the court case, which would put him in the position of having to sue to protect his salary. Graves said this is not the first time the issue has been raised. There was an attorney general opinion in 1994. "At that time it was clear to me that my salary would remain at $50,000," Graves said. He noted that the Legislature looked at the issue and felt it could make the adjustment so that all three commissioners would receive the same salary. "It was passed by a Democratic Legislature and signed by a Republican governor, and no one said anything about it then," Graves said. "There is a fundamental difference between being told that your salary will not increase and being told that your salary will decrease," Graves said of the legislative action raising his salary two years ago and the attorney general opinion overturning that action. "This affects my ability to support my family." Graves was appointed to the commission in August, 1991, to complete the unexpired term of Commissioner Bob Hopkins, who resigned. …

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