Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Open government advocate wins another term on Norman City Council

Norman Councilman Tom Kovach was re-elected to the Ward 2 seat in the city's municipal election on Tuesday.

Kovach and Steve Lucas, a candidate for the Ward 8 seat, had signed FOI Oklahoma's Open Government Pledge.

Lucas, a Cleveland County deputy sheriff, lost in his election.

Kovach was the first candidate in a 2012 election to sign the pledge this year. He also signed the pledge when he ran for re-election to the Ward 2 seat in 2010.

Kovach is a member of FOI Oklahoma Inc.

This past summer, Kovach's fellow council members approved his proposals to make Norman city government more transparent.

Under what became Norman's first records retention policy, all city emails and other records must be "retained for at least 1 year unless there is pending litigation, in which case it will be retained for at least 2 years after the ultimate disposition or the resolution of the litigation."

Also, all committees, sub committees and ad hoc committees must abide by the state Open Meeting Act and a state statute requiring that notices and agendas for regularly scheduled meetings be posted on the public body's website.

Kovach said that provision covers advisory committees, even those appointed by the mayor, regardless of whether they have actual or de facto decision-making power.

By signing the Open Government Pledge, candidates promise, "I and the public bodies that I am elected to govern will comply with not only the letter but also the spirit of Oklahoma's Open Meeting and Open Records laws."

They also promise “to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

FOI Oklahoma began the Open Government Pledge in spring 2008 as part of a national effort to spur public commitments to government transparency from candidates for president down to city council contests.

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

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