Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin released more than 51,000 pages of documents Friday to meet public records requests for information about how her office made health care decisions, but advocates of the state's open record laws are concerned about what was not released.
In its request made in November, The Oklahoman asked for all emails relating to Fallin's decision first to accept and then to reject $54 million in federal health care funding to develop a health care exchange, a primary component of the new federal health care law passed in 2010 and often called Obamacare.
The governor's office said 31 emails, representing 100 pages, were not released under what it described as exemptions related to executive privilege, deliberative process privilege and attorney-client privilege.
In a letter included with the release, Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, said that only reflects 0.2 percent of all documents that qualified under the request.
“As you can see, very few documents fall within a privileged category and it has always been the practice of this administration to invoke privilege sparingly,” Mullins wrote. “The governor is firmly committed to the principles of transparent and open government.”
That defense is not enough for advocates of the state's open record laws, who say there is no legal exemption for executive privilege.
Kelly Dyer Fry, vice president of OPUBCO Communications Group and editor of The Oklahoman, said she is disappointed in the decision to withhold documents.
“Current state law does not support her decision; we will now have to determine the next steps,” Fry said.
Brady Henderson, legal director for American Civil Liberties of Oklahoma, said his organization may file a lawsuit if it's determined Fallin's office did not comply with the law. He said that decision will be made as early as next week.
“We're disappointed that anything still includes executive privilege,” Henderson said. “I think we're going to try and have a little more time to look at those things that have been turned over so we can try to get a sense of where they draw the line.”
Eight other organizations, including TV stations, newspapers and an online blog, also received copies of the documents on Friday.