Three months after being asked to turn over emails related to her decision to reject tens of millions of federal health care dollars, Gov. Mary Fallin has yet to produce a single document. And she offered no timetable last week on when any might be expected.
The Oklahoman in November requested emails relating to her decision to first accept and then reject $54 million in health care funding to develop a health care exchange, a primary component of the new federal health care law passed last year known as Obamacare.
Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, said since The Oklahoman's initial request under the state's Open Records Act seven other news media organizations have followed suit.
“The largest in scope asks for all documents sent or received dating back to before Gov. Fallin was sworn in as governor,” Weintz said in an email. “In answering these requests, we are processing the largest in scope first — which means assembling every document, email, letter, etc., containing key words related to health policy.”
Weintz said the Office of Management and Enterprise Services is pulling the records and lawyers within the governor's office are reviewing each.
Those her office considers outside the scope of the request or exempt from the Act are then redacted or culled. Personal notes made by policymakers during policy meetings or emails that pertain to actual litigation can be considered closed records under the act.
But in an interview last week, Fallin said she may invoke “executive privilege” to withhold some documents developed during policy deliberations.
“We do believe there is executive privilege ... that if there is information I'm using to get information from my staff or lawyers to provide me insight into various issues that it's been held up by the courts that you can have executive privilege,” Fallin told The Oklahoman.
Government transparency advocates have said if Fallin does invoke executive privilege she would be redefining state law and stripping the public and media organizations of rights secured under the Open Records Act for almost 30 years.
“There's no exemption for deliberative process, there's no executive privilege provided for in the Open Records Act, and I believe the governor's mistaken about whether she is exempt from disclosure of her emails and other communications,” Oklahoma City attorney Bob Nelon said.