Lack of enforcement in Oklahoma is apparent when it comes to open government laws

NewsOK reporter Bryan Dean chatted with readers Wednesday about open records and public access in Oklahoma.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Modified: February 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm •  Published: February 27, 2013
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That doesn't seem to be happening, though. There are a lot of reasons. The most common offenders of these laws are public officials, and sometimes the district attorneys or police themselves.

One thing that has helped in other states is to create a state open records commission or ombudsman. Essentially, you create an appeal system so people can get relief without having to go through the lengthy and costly court process.

When a public agency won't release a public document, what recourse do people have?

Theoretically, you have both a criminal and civil recourse.

If someone is violating the law, you can make a complaint to local police or the district attorney. However, as we have been discussing, that doesn't usually go very far. The other recourse is to sue.

How about the state ethics commission? Why don't they do more about this subject?

The ethics commission is tasked with overseeing elections, but they aren't a law enforcement organization. They aren't empowered under the law to enforce open records. It is left to local law enforcement and district attorneys. And many people believe that is a problem.

Read the complete chat transcript here.