FOI Oklahoma: For Fallin, The Black Hole; For Holt, The Sunshine


The Oklahoman

A veteran educator, a state lawmaker and two tenacious Bartlesville residents received FOI Oklahoma’s top awards Saturday in Oklahoma City at the organization’s Sunshine Week program.

For the second straight year, Gov. Mary Fallin was named recipient of the Black Hole recognition for damaging access to records which should be easily available to the public.

Rita Geiger, a major force in FOI’s educational programs, was presented the Marian Opala First Amendment Award, while state Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, received the Sunshine Award.

Bartlesville’s Joel Rabin and Sharon Hurst accepted the Ben Blackstock Award for pursuing through the courts a ruling that Oklahomans may sue to enforce the state Open Meeting Act without having to prove they were individually injured by the alleged violations.

Geiger received the award named for the late Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala. It recognizes individuals who have promoted education about or protection of the individual rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Geiger became involved with FOI in the early 1990s when she partnered with Sue Hale, one of FOI’s founders, to present workshops using the Education for Freedom’s Lessons of the First Amendment.

After she retired, she presented these lessons to teachers and pre-teachers across the state. The early lessons and new ones added in 2012 are on FOI’s web site.

Geiger became the social studies specialist for the state Department of Education in 1977. In 1987, she was named the state coordinator for a national program on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Sunshine Award recognizes a public official or governmental body that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.

Holt, the majority whip in the Senate, has shown his support for the state’s open meeting and open records statutes by filing and supporting legislation friendly to those laws.

One of Holt’s bills would let plaintiffs collect attorney fees after successfully suing local governments for violations of the Open Meeting Act.

Another would make all law enforcement dash cam videos a public record.

Holt also has pushed legislation to make the Oklahoma Legislature subject to the open meeting and open records acts. Those two statutes have long provided transparency to all levels of government — except the Legislature, which exempted itself.

Holt was first elected in 2010 and serves mostly northwest Oklahoma City, Warr Acres and The Village.

Rabin and Holt received the award named for retired Oklahoma Press Association Executive Director Ben Blackstock. It recognizes a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.

Rabin and Hurst have spent thousands of their own dollars fighting open meeting violations.

They filed suit against the Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority in October 2010 after the BRTA held an executive session the two believed to be improper.

Logo courtesy Sooner Politics

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  1. Jon, 17 March, 2014

    How many open records has Fallin released to the media in her tenure? Surely it is more than any governor since Walters, and it would not at all surprise me if it were more than any governor in the post-Hall era, and this before her second term.

    But I suppose I could be wrong. I mean, who could forget the dogged reporting of the Capitol press corps under Brad Henry – the never ending volley of open records request he endured. His laconic persona really seemed a good fit for the press corps’ disinterest in taking an adversarial, or even skeptical, stance to any of his office’s initiatives.

  2. Vote David Holt for Oklahoma State Senate Sunshine Award | Vote David Holt for Oklahoma State Senate, 17 March, 2014

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