November 20, 2023
There is a political effort underway in our state that if left unchecked could cost the taxpayers of the state of Oklahoma tens of millions of dollars while calling into question promises the state has made to thousands of retired public employees. At issue is an effort by Treasurer Todd Russ to override a vote and settled decision by the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), in the name of leveraging the pension funds of our retired public servants as pawns in an out-of-state political campaign seeking to divest from companies some believe boycott the energy industry.
This is why the Keep Oklahoma’s Promises Coalition (KOP), Oklahoma Retired Educators Association (OREA), and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) are proud to announce we are talking a stance against State Treasurer Todd Russ’s political games and any future politicization of our retirement funds. Today, our coalition’s plaintiff Dr. Don Keenan filed a temporary injunction to stop Todd Russ and to protect our members’ hard-earned retirement money.
The temporary injunction, filed in Oklahoma County District Court, states that Todd Russ is enforcing the “Energy Discrimination Act of 2022”, a law that violates the first amendment for compelling speech, viewpoint discrimination, and content discrimination. In addition, the law is unconstitutionally vague. That vagueness gives State Treasurer Russ unchecked power to determine what banks the state of Oklahoma can and cannot conduct business with. The most damning claim is that this law directly conflicts with the state constitution which requires Oklahoma’s pension systems to make decisions for the “exclusive benefit” of the beneficiaries.
“We will not allow Todd Russ to play politics with state employees and retirees’ money. The pension system is not taxpayer money, it is compensation earned by active employees who currently pay into the system and the pensioners who contributed to the same system for decades. The decision to pursue legal action against Todd Russ was not taken lightly, but we feel it is necessary to strengthen the fiduciary responsibility of our pension systems.”Tony DeSha; OPEA Executive Director
Our plaintiff, Dr. Donald Keenan, is a veteran with nineteen years of service in the U. S. military (Army and Air Force). He received an honorable discharge and early retirement due to injuries sustained while on duty. Then was employed by the Oklahoma Employment Securities Administration (OESC) as a Disabled Veterans Employment Representative. While employed by OESC he served as the Tulsa Area Representative to the OPEA and was twice elected president of the organization. Don was also appointed as a member of the Oklahoma Public Employees and Justice and Judges Retirement Board (OPERS Board) by Speaker Glenn Johnson. Upon retirement from state service, Don was employed by the Sinclair Tulsa Refinery as Human Resources Director. While there he also served as retiree representative for OPEA’s Board of Directors.
Collin Walke, Special Counsel at Hall & Estill is representing Dr. Don Keenan, and he brings a wealth of experience in litigation. We are committed to a fair and impartial legal process to protect our retiree’s pensions from political gamesmanship.
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) was formed to protect and improve state employees’ interests. Since OPEA’s creation in 1975, we have made great progress for state employees and refuse to stand idly by as Treasurer Russ diminishes our members’ hard-earned retirement funds, and abandons the promises made by the state to public employees, all in the name of political activism.
For questions please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org (405) 524 – 6764
Oklahoma Public Employees Association