Oklahoma law releases 40,000 state worker addresses for mailings

BY JOHN ESTUS AND PAUL MONIES Modified: April 2, 2010 at 6:28 pm •  Published: March 28, 2010

/> Last year’s broader mailing list access was tacked on in the closing days of the legislative session to a bill outlining how state prisons should deal with illegal immigrant detainees. The bill was called the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Repatriation Act of 2009.

The mailing list section was added to HB 2245 in a conference committee report May 21. OPEA is the only organization that has used the new law to conduct mailings, according to Office of State Finance records. The group is not charged for the list.

The new law applies to organizations limited to state employee membership that include more than 2,000 state employees as members.

One such organization was unaware the new law applied to organizations other than OPEA.

"We’ve not ever used it,” said Amanda Ewing, executive director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, which represents more than 2,000 state corrections workers.

Ewing said her organization likely won’t use the new law for mailings because delivering home addresses of public employees to mailing companies seems risky.

"If I were a corrections officer, I’d like to have control over who knew where my home address was,” Ewing said.

OPEA sued the corrections group shortly after its formation in 2008. The lawsuit accuses OPEA’s former membership coordinator and others who left OPEA to form the corrections group of using OPEA’s membership list to recruit members for the corrections group. That lawsuit is pending.

This year, OPEA has been the chief supporter of Senate Bill 1753, which would exempt public employee birthdates from the Open Records Act.

Other employee groups have joined OPEA to support the bill, claiming dates of birth need to be private to protect employees from identity theft and safety concerns.

Freedom of information advocates oppose the bill because they say exempting dates of birth will diminish the ability of the public and media to serve as a watchdog over government. Dates of birth are a key component of accurately identifying people, particularly those with common names.

Senate Bill 1753 passed the Senate and is awaiting a House panel hearing.

The home addresses, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of public employees are already exempt from the Open Records Act.

Read the new state law that sets up mailing lists for...



Oklahoma Public Employees Association
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association was formed in 1975. It is the largest organization for state employees, representing about 10,000 of the state’s 40,000 workers at more than 120 agencies.

The group advocates higher pay, better benefits, improved working conditions and other initiatives the association thinks will help state workers. It also provides help to classified employees when they have issues before the Merit Protection Commission regarding demotions, suspensions or firings.

OPEA has eight registered lobbyists at the Capitol. It also has a political action committee.

Campaign donations by the committee tripled from $43,372 in the 2006 election cycle to $126,566 in 2008 campaigns, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by The Oklahoman.

About half of the association’s members have authorized $2.25 a month of their $15 monthly dues to be given to the political action committee, OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley said.

The political action committee is governed by nine trustees who evaluate candidates’ willingness to support state workers when deciding whether the candidates will receive donations.

OPEA political action committee contributions



Totals

2006: $42,372

2008: $126,566

Democrats

2006: $32,172

2008: $71,716

Total: $103,888

Republicans

2006: $10,200

2008: $54,850

Total: $65,050

Source: The Oklahoman analysis of Oklahoma Ethics Commission data

Staff writers Paul Monies and John Estus

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