A federal grant, regardless of size, is public business. The money comes from the pockets of taxpayers. And it's not like Oklahoma is breaking new ground in this arena. Similar open records rulings have been made in a number of states, including Colorado, Florida, California, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
If the administration's thinking about the grant changed dramatically — and clearly it did — then Fallin should be prepared to discuss how and why that happened instead of pretending it didn't. The reasons she cites today for declining to build an exchange — too many federal strings attached, etc. — were being raised at the time she accepted the money.
Oklahoma State University professor Joey Senat, an expert in Oklahoma's open records laws, points out that public officials' personal notes or memos are no longer considered personal once they become a recorded conversation or directive. As for executive privilege, that relates to the federal government, not state government. “This ain't the White House,” Senat said.
Is Fallin hiding something about the health care exchange? Hard to say. But stonewalling the media on this issue leaves a bad impression and only ensures that the question, and others like it, will remain.