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Politics and Government

Lawsuit: State Pension Board Law Violates Constitution

Oklahoma Capitol
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Flickr Creative Commons

A lawsuit filed Thursday asks the state Supreme Court to find that the State Pension Commission violated the Oklahoma Constitution because two of its seven members are legislators.

Oklahoma City Attorney Jerry Fent's lawsuit said the pension commission is an executive branch entity. He said state Senator Rick Brinkley's membership on the commission violated the separation of power because Brinkley is a member of the legislative branch. Kent's lawsuit named commission chairman Ken Miller, the state treasurer, and Brinkley as defendants.

"It's obviously unconstitutional," Fent said.

Fent said the statute, passed by the Legislature in 1988 and signed by then-Governor Henry Bellmon, was unconstitutional because it allowed a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate to serve on an executive branch commission. He said no member of the House as served on the commission for a decade.

"This law has been unconstitutional for over 26 years," Fent's lawsuit says.

Deputy State Treasurer Tim Allen said Miller's office office reviewed the lawsuit Thursday morning and referred the matter to the Attorney General.

"Mr. Fent’s lawsuit challenges action taken 27 years ago by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Henry Bellmon. It far predates the service of the current commissioners," Allen said in a statement to Oklahoma Watch. "In addition, there is pending legislation that would potentially correct the problems raised by Mr. Fent. HB 1052 by Rep. McDaniel would make the two legislative members of the commission nonvoting."

Allen said the treasurer's office would be happy to comply with any decisions reached by either the court or the Legislature.

This story was updated at 1:26 p.m. to include new comments by the State Treasurer's office.

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