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Murphey: Open Meeting Violations

murphey1Rep. Jason Murphey

A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

One of these bills, Senate Bill 1497, allows an aggrieved person to recover legal fees for taking legal action when a government entity refuses to follow Oklahoma’s open meeting law.

Until now, a plaintiff may recover legal fees when denied open records from a government agency, but not when denied access to what should have been an open meeting of that same agency.

SB 1497 enables the recovery of legal fees in both instances, and represents one of the most important in our array of government modernization and transparency efforts for this year.

Without this reform, citizens didn’t have the same incentive to hold their elected officials accountable and ensure the government follows the law.

Here’s why.

Suppose a government entity either meets inappropriately, or a majority of the members of a governing board talk amongst each other about an issue before a public meeting.

Perhaps a member of the public becomes aware of this fact. He can seek help from law enforcement but in all too many cases law enforcement officials are extremely hesitant to act against other government officials even at times when the evidence of a breach of the law has become quite obvious.

The citizen’s next recourse is to file a civil action in district court to declare the government agency’s illegal actions to be void. That’s not likely to occur because few relish the idea of both going against a taxpayer-funded attorney in court and paying the legal fees to bring this action.

It requires courage and principle to take on a government in court in an attempt to hold them accountable to the law.

In early 2013, State Senator David Holt and I received correspondence from two individuals who had spent a significant amount of money pursuing an alleged violation of the open meeting law. One might think that the adjudication of an alleged violation of such a simple law could be easily and quickly resolved.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The litigation has taken years as the government entity in question had somehow convinced a trial judge that a civil case couldn’t even be brought in the first place. This bad decision would be subsequently overturned on appeal but the result was years of legal expense and what appears to be a clear attempt of a taxpayer-funded government simply trying to wear out and outspend conscientious local residents who just want the law to be followed.

There are remarkably few who are willing to spend their own time and resources attempting to uphold the law and the input of these two individuals was well received.

Acting on their concern, State Representative Elise Hall, who has been one of the Legislature’s foremost advocates for modernization and transparency, signed on as the House author of the reform with Holt serving as the Senate author. Both Holt and Hall filed the legislation, the House version of which was quickly advanced out of the Government Modernization Committee and the Senate version which was inevitably successful will go into law on November 1st.


Jordan Stays On Tulsa Ballot

Court’s ruling keeps state representative on the ballot: http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepage4/rep-fred-jordan-to-stay-on-ballot-in-tulsa-county/article_86b260ae-4ae2-5760-aad9-6993908dfd09.html


Fallin Names Pattye High To Pardon & Parole Board

Governor Fallin today announced the appointment of Patricia “Pattye” High to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

Her appointment will take effect Monday. She will replace the late Currie Ballard and will serve the remainder of his term, which expires in January.

High, of Oklahoma City, is an attorney with her own law firm. She handles mostly civil cases and also has been appointed in Oklahoma County District Court to serve as a guardian for infants, minors and others in family domestic cases.

High previously served as a senior criminal felony prosecutor in the Oklahoma County district attorney’s office from 1989 to 2007. Her duties included being the child abuse and sexual assault division chief and serving as special prosecutor in death penalty cases. She also worked in the district attorney’s office that serves Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties.

High also served on the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training as a certified instructor of sexual assault investigation, First Amendment law, use of force, rules of evidence, and courtroom testifying for police officers.

“Patricia High is an accomplished attorney with nearly 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors,” said Fallin. “She is passionate about criminal justice and her many years of service reflect that. I believe she will serve on the pardon and parole board with an eye towards considering the rights of victims as well as potential parolees.”

In 2006, High received recognition as prosecutor of the year by the Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association.

High earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma.


MSNBC’s Todd Picks Rising Stars

Chuck Todd of MSNBC has picked four Oklahoma lawmakers as “rising stars”:

http://www.msnbc.com/the-daily-rundown/watch/oklahoma-s-rising-stars-312368707785

Brian Woodard Joins Chesapeake Energy

Brian Woodard, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA), has accepted a federal regulatory affairs position with Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

Woodard joined the OIPA in 2012 and led the organization’s advocacy efforts in state and federal regulatory arenas, serving as the representative of Oklahoma’s independent oil and natural gas industry at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and offering industry input to regulators on water and air quality issues, environmental restrictions regarding the Endangered Species Act and other environmental and regulatory issues that impact Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry.

“I am grateful to have worked for such a fine organization. It has been an enjoyable experience representing such a vibrant industry in a state known for its balanced and stable regulatory environment,” Woodard said.

OIPA Chairman Ronnie Irani, president & CEO of RKI Exploration and Production in Oklahoma City, said a search committee has been formed, and the OIPA hopes to have a new regulatory affairs representative in place soon.


Diane Clay Leaves Pruitt, Joins Catholic Archdiocese

Diane Clay, Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s communications director, has changed jobs.

LinkedIn reports Clay is now Director of the Office of Communications at the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City


Senate Race: $5 Million-plus And Counting

Oklahoma’s 2014 Senate race has been marked by spending…lots of spending: http://newsok.com/more-than-5-million-made-way-into-republican-race-to-replace-oklahoma-sen.-tom-coburn/article/5054072


Barresi Reacts Angrily During Education Board Meeting

Schools Superintendent Janet Bsrresi reacted angrily during a meeting of the Board of Education: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-board-of-education-votes-to-delay-adopting-plan-to-replace-common-core-prompting-janet-barresi-to-lose-her-cool/article/5057652


Douglas Draws Support From Mayors

Present and former mayors today announced their support for Corporation Commission Patrice Douglas in the Republican runoff in the 5th District.

Douglas is a former mayor of Edmond.

The mayor endorsing Douglas:

  • Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett
  • Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb
  • Bethany Mayor Bryan Taylor
  • Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch
  • Tecumseh Mayor Eddy Parker
  • Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson,
  • Former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick
  • Former Edmond Mayor, Saundra Naifeh

In announcing his support for Douglas, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett commented, “As a former Mayor of Edmond, Patrice Douglas is the best qualified candidate to ensure Oklahoma residents have a voice in Congress. In Oklahoma City, there is no doubt that Patrice understands the responsibility and challenges in fostering a pro-growth environment that attracts good-paying jobs.”


Russell Adds Endorsements

Steve Russell has picked two more endorsements, from the National Association For Gun Rights PAC, and Support And Defend PAC, an organization of veterans.

Russell seeks the Republican nomination for Congress in the 5th District.

Support and Defend PAC is a coalition of veteran leaders focused on increasing veteran representation at the local, state and federal levels of government.  The group is particularly focused on advocating for the continued service of veteran leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan.


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