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89 percent say open records should not be sold for profit

By Bobby Ross Jr. Published: September 3, 2000
Nearly all Oklahomans favor open government, and most oppose the government trying to make a profit from selling public records, The Oklahoman /OU Poll found.

Ninety-seven percent of Oklahomans think people should be able to obtain information about what their government does, according to the poll.

Just 2 percent of those polled disagreed, while 1 percent had no opinion.

"There is overwhelming consensus that what the government does should be transparent, that we should know or see what the government is doing," said Gary Copeland, a University of Oklahoma political scientist and adviser to the poll.

At the same time, Oklahomans think the public should have access to public records without paying a hefty fee.

The Oklahoma Open Records Act limits the fee to 25 cents per page for copies when the request is in the public interest.

But in a recent open records survey by The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, a reporter who visited the Pauls Valley Police Department not only was charged eight times the amount allowed by law, but he had to walk to a nearby convenience store to get change so he could pay for the public records he requested.

Meanwhile, a reporter left without buying the Oklahoma City Police Department radio log when he learned the cost was several thousand dollars.

In The Oklahoman /OU Poll, 89 percent said the government should not be able to sell public records to the public for a profit. Six percent said it should, while 5 percent had no opinion.

Also, a majority of those polled were supportive of opening records when they pertained to elected officials:

Ninety-five percent said all expenditures of the state Legislature should be made public. Three percent disagreed; and 2 percent had no opinion.

Fifty-nine percent said Oklahoma legislators and other state elected officials should make public how much of their personal income comes from which sources. Thirty-four percent disagreed; and 7 percent had no opinion.

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