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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin won't budge on executive privilege claim concerning emails

Though Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's staff has updated its email and records release policies, she maintains that she is entitled to keep certain documents secret under a claim of executive privilege.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: April 8, 2013

One ramification of the biggest public records release ever from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office is that every email from that office now carries a disclaimer that the communication may be viewed by a third party — the public.

Other than that, a recent records release to which at least three state employees needed more than 1,600 working hours to respond has done little to impact policymakers' ability to make decisions and share information.

“The whole process has been a reminder to everyone in the office of something that we already knew, which is if you write something in an email it could show up in the newspaper,” said Alex Weintz, spokesman for the governor.

The office released last month more than 51,000 documents in response to a request by The Oklahoman for all emails related to Fallin's decision to reject a $54 million grant and decline to adopt major provisions of the new Affordable Care Act.

Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, said last week that legal staff has been advised to alter the office's records policy so that all requests now must be responded to in the order in which they were received.

That means a simple request for documents such as a pardon and parole packet will now have to wait until staff complies with requests that take weeks or months.

“We can't figure out a way to say even those persons' (requests) who are short, that theirs is more important and we should take time out to do theirs before we do someone else's, so we're just going to do them in the order we receive them,” Mullins said.

There are 11 different records requests currently pending in the governor's office. Though the office did not provide an estimated response time for each pending request, it's clear several of them — including one requesting all emails concerning the office's corrections reform plans — will take months to be released.

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We can't figure out a way to say even those persons' (requests) who are short, that theirs is more important and we should take time out to do theirs before we do someone else's, so we're just going to do them in the order we receive them.”

Steve Mullins,
Gov. Mary Fallin's general counsel

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