The Oklahoma City School Board on Monday night denied applications from two charter schools but kept the reasons for the denials secret.
The board voted unanimously to reject applications from Harper Academy and Lighthouse of Hope Academy, a vote that matched a recommendation by a school district committee tasked with evaluating the charter school requests.
The board heard presentations from the applicants at a meeting last month, but discussion Monday night at the board's public meeting was brief.
Tammy Carter, legal counsel for the school district, gave a “confidential memorandum” outlining problems with the charter school applications to school board members.
“The specific reasons are listed in the memorandum I provided to you,” Carter told the board Monday night.
Carter rejected a state Open Records Act request from The Oklahoman for a copy of the memorandum, citing attorney-client privilege.
“Those memorandum were not from the committee,” Carter wrote in an email. “They were from me to the board. They are covered by the attorney-client privilege and I cannot release them.”
State law allows documents to be kept private because of attorney-client privilege only if the documents are related to pending litigation where “disclosure will seriously impair the ability of the public officer or agency to process the claim or conduct a pending investigation, litigation or proceeding in the public interest.”
Attorney-client privileges are strictly limited when the client is a government entity, said Joey Senat, an open government expert and an associate journalism professor at Oklahoma State University.
Keeping the memorandum secret is “nonsense,” Senat said.
“Just because it's from an attorney doesn't mean that it can be kept from the public,” he said. “The school district's playing games with the Open Records Act.”
Committee reviewed applications