Wednesday, March 27, 2013
ACLU of Oklahoma threatens Gov. Fallin with lawsuit over records denial, notes apparent Open Records Act violation by her office
If Gov. Mary Fallin continues to deny access to emails and other correspondence related to her refusal to create a state health insurance exchange, the ACLU of Oklahoma will seek a court order compelling her to release the records, the organization said Wednesday on behalf of The Lost Ogle.
The website's Dec. 10 request for the records has been "met with gross indifference, if not outright defiance," ALCU Legal Director Brady R. Henderson said in a letter Tuesday to Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins.
Henderson said that when he went to the governor's office this past Thursday and asked to inspect "whatever records were available on hand," he was told that Mullins is the only person authorized to release records and that he was out of town for the week.
However, the Open Records Act requires that "at least one person shall be available at all times to release records during the regular business hours of the public body." (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 24A.5(6))
Henderson noted in his letter, "The Open Records Act is quite explicit on this point.
"If this violation ... continues following a reasonable period in which to make corrections, there can be no question that it is a willful violation, and thus appropriate for criminal prosecution," Henderson said.
Henderson also noted that while The Lost Ogle has "received no substantive response" to it records request, other journalists seeking the same records "have been met with false claims of a non-existent 'executive privilege' to deny them records to which they are lawfully entitled."
Coupled with the office's failure to have someone available to release records, Henderson said, the claim of executive privilege "suggests that Governor Fallin not only fails to take the Open Records Act seriously, but fails to understand the broader implications for the citizens of Oklahoma.
"Such conduct rides roughshod over the people's right to open and accountable government," Henderson said.
(Read the ACLU of Oklahoma press release issued Wednesday.)
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
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.