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Applaud District Attorney Prater's efforts for openness

Published: March 31, 2013

Regarding “Charges against parole board members may do more harm than good” (Our Views, March 15): The Oklahoman decried Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater's filing of charges against the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. They're charged with violations of the very law they were formally and specifically trained to follow in 2011. Three years ago, The Oklahoman filed a lawsuit seeking state employee birthdates it felt were public record. The Oklahoman should applaud rather than revile Prater's efforts to ensure openness in government.

Gov. Mary Fallin also responded in kind to this incident, saying that citizens may be reluctant to serve on boards “if they are … in fear of being charged with a crime while making a good-faith effort to follow the law.” Parole board members are well-intentioned citizens doing a difficult job, but that doesn't give them carte blanche to violate the law. In fact, one member is a former federal agent, one is a former Secret Service agent and two are attorneys. The parole board members know about the law and are actually paid to follow it. If the board has a newfound “willfull determination to follow the law,” that's great for them and for all Oklahomans. However, many citizens find a “willfull determination to follow the law” after they're caught breaking it.

The Open Meeting Act provides citizens with transparency in their government. Is that a meaningless cliche or do we citizens demand it? When the faith of citizens in their government erodes, we all lose.

Rep. Cory Williams, Stillwater

Williams, a Democrat, is assistant minority whip in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.