Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Assistant DA: Prosecution of DHS commission not likely

Commissioners overseeing the state Department of Human Services apparently won't face charges of violating the Open Meeting Act.

An assistant district attorney for Oklahoma County told the Tulsa World that the DHS response to allegations of meeting violations will be taken under advisement.

"I don't think filing charges will be necessary to accomplish our goal, but no firm decision has been made," said Scott Rowland. "I think with each passing meeting, we will see how things are being worked out."

Rowland told the newspaper that prosecutors met with DHS officials last week for the first time and discussed how the commission's committees are being used.

The soon-to-be-former chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services recently testified that the committees are limited to four members to avoid the Open Meeting Act's requirements for public notices and agendas, The Oklahoman reported Sunday.

Like some other public bodies in the state, the commission exploits a loophole created by the state Supreme Court to avoid committee meetings being open to taxpayers even though the Open Meeting Act definition of public body includes "all committees or subcommittees of any public body."

However, as I've pointed out on this blog several times, nothing in the Open Meeting Act prohibits these committee meetings from being open to the public. Rowland echoed that point in the Tulsa World.

"It would remove any room for argument if they would just post an agenda and open it up," Rowland said.

Sure would.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

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