Public record chat: Oklahoma has strong open records laws but officials fail to enforce them

Reporters Bryan Dean and Paul Monies and Joey Senat, an Oklahoma State University professor and open government expert, chatted with readers Wednesday about open records cases.
by Paul Monies Modified: July 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm •  Published: July 25, 2012
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Reporters Bryan Dean and Paul Monies and Joey Senat, an Oklahoma State University professor and open government expert, chatted with readers Wednesday about open records cases. Read the entire chat recap here.

Topics discussed today include: public documents under attack, openness of criminal affidavits, whether someone should give a reason to view public records, requirements for meeting agendas, requesting records from private or nonprofit agencies and why district attorneys in the state need to enforce open government laws.

On district attorneys enforcing open record laws:

When someone violates the open records act, there is documented evidence. When the open meeting act is violated there are usually dozens of witnesses. Often the meetings is videotaped. It wouldn't be hard to prosecute if district attorney's weren't afraid of offending their fellow government officials. - Bryan Dean

But our open government laws are toothless and easily ignored unless the district attorneys will enforce them. - Joey Senat

Joey's point is important. Right now that seems to be the biggest issue. Oklahoma has pretty good open records and meeting laws. But no one enforces them. - Bryan Dean

On availability of public documents:

Governments at all levels have started closing off previously open records in the name of security. Stuff that in many cases, we need to see to keep the government honest. If you want to know if a utility is doing something to put the public in danger, you might be stymied by rules that prohibit the release of records because they don't want terrorists attacking the electric grid, for example. - Bryan Dean

Both security and privacy come into play. And then there are people who prey on fears of identity theft. - Paul Monies

Continue reading this story on the...

by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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