Oklahoma DHS promises to do better job of informing public

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater says he still has concerns after getting complaints that DHS violated Open Meeting Act.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: September 14, 2011
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In the DHS response, Waters wrote the committees are lawful because they make no final decisions and do not eliminate matters from future consideration by the full commission. He wrote the committees “simply obtain information and make recommendations to the commission.”

DHS officials agreed with Prater that they can be more specific on their commission meeting agendas.

Agendas are outlines of what is up for discussion or action. “We will, as you propose, attempt in future agenda items to set forth the major changes contemplated by the action,” Waters wrote.

Prater had raised with DHS officials a complaint from Dow about the agenda of a June 14 meeting.

Prater had warned the agency that “future agenda items which are phrased very vaguely and have imbedded within them massive policy changes may indeed constitute violations.”

DHS officials also promised commissioners will return to their seats in the future after closed executive sessions.

Commissioners then will vote on whether to adjourn meetings.

Attorney says last complaint was in '87

Prater had told DHS officials that commissioners had not properly come back into open session in one or more meetings. Prater warned DHS there were no minor violations of the law. “Oklahoma's law on openness in government serves an important and noble purpose,” Prater wrote.

In the response, Waters wrote: “We take seriously our obligations to follow the law and have a long history of complying with the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. We do not wish to do anything which would diminish our record in this area. Until now, the last complaint we received was in 1987 … Since that time the commission … has held approximately 240 public meetings and considered well over 3,000 agenda items without a complaint.”

Dow on Tuesday thanked Prater for “his prompt and thorough investigation of these important issues and, in the process, clarifying the provisions of the Open Meeting Act.” Dow said he looked forward to the commission following the suggested changes.

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