The group against the construction of the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike was surprised and pleased to learn that an Oklahoma City attorney has sued the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on a constitutionality complaint.
According to news reports, Jerry Fent filed the suit against OTA Friday in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He is pressing his claim that state laws that “bundle” several projects, instead of addressing them as single subjects, is unconstitutional. He said the practice is a way to “logroll,” or muster legislative support for perhaps one unpopular project along with something that might be more popular. Such was the bundling of the many projects in the Driving Forward Program that includes the EOC Turnpike, approved by the State Legislature in 1987, Fent alleges through his suit.
Paul Crouch who leads a group against the EOC turnpike said the news made his day.
“We stand ready to support Jerry in any way possible and are proud of him for taking a stand against injustice. We are also planning to follow Jerry’s lead with action of our own. There are many moving parts going on as we speak. There are others across the state who are also gathering information concerning OTA’s questionable funding methods,” said Crouch who continues to raise money for other legal challenges to the project.
In 2009, Fent was victorious in a similar suit with the state’s highest court regarding alleged logrolling of several bond projects to improve the state capitol building.
Meanwhile, two things are scheduled next week that affect the EOC project. On Tuesday, the OTA board is expected to vote on a toll hike to help pay for the funding of the Driving Forward Program. Since the projects were announced last October, officials have indicated the hike could amount to up to 16 percent. And on Thursday, the State Bond Advisor’s Office will be asked to give OTA approval to issue $480 million in Tax-Exempt Fixed-Rate Turnpike System Revenue Bonds to fund the projects – the projects that Fent alleges are unconstitutional because they are a package.
The EOC proposed 21-mile new toll road through Crouch’s land and many of his neighbors is just one of six total turnpike projects in the Driving Forward program.
A Supreme Court hearing on Fent’s case is scheduled next month.