A representative of an Oklahoma child care association has sent an email to state and county prosecutors accusing the Department of Human Services and the state's Child Care Advisory Committee of violating the state Open Meeting Act.
“We are deeply concerned by the blatant violations of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act that the Department of Human Services has engaged in for at least a minimum of the last two years while meeting to review and completely rewrite every portion of the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Act,” Tammy Maus, legislative representative and board member of the Licensed Child Care Association of Oklahoma, said in an email to Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
No meeting notices?
In an attached letter to DHS Director Edward Lake, Maus complained that DHS members, members of the Child Care Advisory Committee and a subcommittee of the advisory committee had “blatantly, purposefully and deliberately disregarded the known requirements of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.”
Maus told The Oklahoman her organization's main complaint is that the subcommittee of the advisory committee didn't post meeting notices.
A copy of Maus' letter also was sent to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
“I received a letter late last week, and we're reviewing it at this time,” Prater said Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Pruitt said officials in the attorney general's office also are reviewing the letter.
Maus said her association wants the advisory committee to toss out the work it has done so far. A new committee should be created to revise licensing requirements, she said. It should follow the Open Meeting Act and proportionally represent the local child care industry.
Maus' trade association, Licensed Child Care Association of Oklahoma, is newer and smaller than the more widely known Oklahoma Child Care Association.
Licensed Child Care Association of Oklahoma has about 100 members, some of whom are individuals and others are child care centers, said Rikki Cosper, another board member. She said the group existed for about 10 years under the name Central Oklahoma Friends of Early Education, but was renamed two months ago.
Cosper said many members of her organization do not believe their views were adequately represented by the Oklahoma Child Care Association, which has about 500 members.
Kathy Cronemiller, president of the Oklahoma Child Care Association, said her organization doesn't share Maus' view that the Open Meeting Act was violated by the advisory committee.
“I don't see how it can be an Open Meeting violation,” Cronemiller said. “We knew about the meetings and attended the meetings.”
Cronemiller said her association was disappointed with certain aspects of how the meetings were conducted, such as child care providers not being allowed to speak until the last five minutes of meetings.
The Child Care Advisory Committee voted last week to recommend new licensing regulations and providers weren't allowed to speak until the vote had already been taken, she complained.
The proposed new regulations contain tougher standards on things like hand washing sinks and square-footage requirements in rooms for infants. The standards would be costly and particularly difficult for child care centers in some older churches to meet, Cronemiller said.
Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for DHS, said agency officials are evaluating Maus' complaint with the attorney general's office, but at this point believe the Child Care Advisory Committee complied with the Open Meeting Act.
“This committee and any of its subcommittees only make proposed changes to rules under the Child Care Licensing Act,” Powell said. “Only the state Legislature has the authority to approve such rules. ... Once the rules are proposed, rule-making procedures are followed, including holding a public hearing. Thereafter, final rules are adopted or rejected by the Legislature.”