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Questions about health exchange emails will only linger as Fallin holds onto them

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: November 29, 2012

IS there something Gov. Mary Fallin doesn't want the public to know about how she came to the decision last year not to accept a $54 million grant from the federal government?

Fair or not, that question lingers following Fallin's decision not to provide The Oklahoman with emails she sent or received in early 2011 when she at first decided to accept the money, then changed her mind following blowback from fellow conservatives.

The grant would have been used to establish an online marketplace called a health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature piece of legislation during his first term. Obamacare has been unpopular in Oklahoma from the day it began to take shape, and the partisan way in which the law was approved by Congress made it all the more distasteful.

Oklahoma, like all states, regularly gets federal grant money for a variety of purposes. Yet the idea of doing so to create a state-based health care exchange that was part of Obamacare quickly became poisonous. So Fallin and GOP legislative leaders who had signed off on the grant did an about-face.

This newspaper requested email records from that period but was told by Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, that because they involve the governor's deliberative process, they won't be released. Mullins cited executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. He said releasing emails tied to state deliberations on policy issues could hamper policymakers' ability to have productive internal discussions.

How's this for a solution? Pick up the phone and call the other person! Otherwise, you're bound by a 2009 opinion from the Oklahoma attorney general's office. That opinion couldn't have been more clear: “Emails, text messages and other electronic communications made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, the expenditure of public funds or the administration of public property, are subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.” (Our emphasis added.)

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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