State Bar Chief Responds To Accusations Amid Pruitt Investigation

Thursday, August 3rd 2017, 10:03 pm
By: Grant Hermes

The head of the Oklahoma Bar Association responded to criticism Thursday after the association’s investigation into former Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

In a column in the Mccarville Report on Monday, President of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs Jonathan Small called the OBA “a private group that possesses government power” with “a track record of taking far-left political stances.”

Small was referring to an investigation into several untruths Pruitt gave under oath during his confirmation hearing, including that he did not use a personal email account to do official state business, before the Senate Environment and Public Works committed to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The story was incorrect in stating the Oklahoma Bar Association licensed lawyers and was a private political organization, “OBA Executive Director John Morris Williams said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“Mr. Small is not alone in trying to politicize a purely non-political situation,” he wrote later. “We investigate every complaint, and the fact that a compliant is being investigated should not have anyone drawing any conclusions on its merit.” 

Small also questions the OBA’s ability to regulate the licenses of lawyers and the association’s guaranteed voice in choosing Oklahoma appellate judges.

This is a lot of power for a private group that takes political positions,” Small wrote.

“That implication is false and misleading,” Williams said in response. “The licensing and ultimate discipline power is vested with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.”

The investigation into Pruitt was prompted after an environmental activist group, the Center for Biological Diversity and an OU law professor, Kristen van de Biezenbos, filed a formal complaint with the OBA.

In his column, Small takes issue with both parties calling the CBD a “radical environmental group that seems to exist primarily to file lawsuits.” He also drew political lines by saying van de Biezenbos was a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and had ties to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Whitehouse recently sent a 68-page letter to the OBA detailing what he called Pruitt’s “pattern of misstatements and attempted obfuscation.”

According to a spokesperson for the OBA, all investigations are private until the ruling is made public. In the past, Mr. Pruitt’s office has not responded to questions for a comment. A response was not immediately available from him Thursday night.