Dobson Telephone Co. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Corp.
Dobson Telephone Company appealed the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's denial of its application for reimbursement from the Oklahoma Universal Services Fund for expenses incurred when it was ordered by the State Department of Transportation to relocate its telephone lines within the public right-of-way of a State construction project. Dobson made detailed, confidential information regarding the project's costs available for inspection to the Commission's Oklahoma Universal Service Fund ("OUSF") Administrator. This included information regarding the costs incurred, invoices for engineering, equipment and supplies, and internal employee timesheets and wages. The Administrator reviewed Dobson's application, inspected the confidential information and ultimately approved a reimbursement for Dobson in the amount of $21,794.27. It disallowed $330.61 due to a lack of supporting invoices. Various competitor telephone companies objected and filed a Request for Reconsideration. A hearing was held before an ALJ, where the evidence was briefed and summarized, additional testimony was taken, and the objecting parties were permitted to cross-examine witnesses--including the Administrator--and present evidence or argument to the contrary. The ALJ upheld the Administrator's recommendation, agreeing that Dobson was an eligible provider, that the facilities in question were used in the provision of primary universal services, and that the expenses incurred by Dobson were as a result of a state government mandate. Thereafter, the Commission voted, 2-1, to deny Dobson's request. The two-person majority found that Dobson's request was not sufficiently supported by evidence as the confidential information reviewed by its Administrator was not included in the record before the Commission. The Commission further determined that Dobson failed to prove that the expenditures at issue were necessary to provide primary universal services at a reasonable and affordable rate. Finally, the Commission stated that it was without sufficient information to determine whether the expenses were incurred only for primary universal services. The Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that although the Commission was not bound by the Administrator's recommendation, the record reflected ample evidence with which to support the Administrator's determination. The Administrator, as well as the dissenting Commissioner, both agreed Dobson was entitled to reimbursement of the increased costs it incurred as a result of ODOT's mandate to relocate the telephone lines. The Commission's wholesale denial of Dobson's request was in error. View "Dobson Telephone Co. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Corp." on Justia Law