Constitutional advocate Jerry Fent is not done with his fight against the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Twenty days ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the Oklahoma City attorney’s claim that the funding mechanism for the proposed $480 million Driving Forward turnpike program violated the constitution by logrolling (combining more than one project at a time) and perpetuity (never paying for it completely.) He had both sued the OTA at the state high court, and appeared as a protestor to the OTA’s bond funding request. The court said no to him on both counts.
He had twenty days to file for a rehearing. And that’s what he is doing today.
But this time, Fent told The Luther Register he is further adding to his claim the allegation that OTA fraudulently pursued the funding of the new projects based on the action OTA took to spend $90 million on the projects BEFORE the bond sale was approved.
Fent is asking for the nine justices to hear his case this time. A supreme court referee heard the oral arguments in the previous two hearings.
Meantime, the Turnpike Authority has proceeded with demolition of homes in the proposed path for the new toll road between I-40 and I-44, roughly along Luther Road. And is preparing to raise tolls for all turnpikes on February 1, 2017, to help pay for the program.
OTA officials said they have not seen Mr. Fent’s filing yet but will provide a comment later. Meantime, OTA spokesman Jack Damrill says that the bonds have not yet been sold to fund the program.
Just more than a year old, the Driving Forward was controversial as soon as Eastern Oklahoma County residents learned the proposed route involved their land. Their protests have prompting capitol rallies, strategy sessions, unreturned calls from elected officials and fund-raising to hire attorney Eric Groves to work on their behalf. Incidentally, Mr. Fent is working on this issue as a constitutional advocate, and has not been hired by anyone. Groves did not appear with Fent on behalf of the OTA bond case at the last Supreme Court hearing.
Below is a gallery of photos reflecting The Luther Register’s coverage of the turnpike issue over the last year.