Published November 9, 2015 by Phil Cross (KTUL)
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is the center of yet another lawsuit over open records. The new lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of a reporter who has been waiting for execution records and a private advocate for nursing home reform who has been waiting 18 months for records.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is taking up the case and says the Governor’s office is not following the letter or spirit of the Open Records Act. The law requires state agencies to turn over records in a “prompt and reasonable” timeframe. The ACLU of Oklahoma says 18 months is far longer than the law intended.
The governor’s office says she is committed to transparency and has turned over some 357,000 documents since taking office in 2012, more than all other Oklahoma governors combined. Spokesman Alex Weintz says the governor’s office reviews each page before it is released and that process takes time. Weintz says the office generates more responsive records than ever before and is working with a smaller staff than previous governors. He says the open records process takes time and there is no way to speed up the process.
Critics of the governor’s open records response say many of the responses in recent document dumps have included thousands of duplicate records. The ACLU says the most recent release of records shows the governor’s office is taking additional steps to fulfill the records requests by creating images of electronic records rather than searchable electronic files. ACLU-OK director Ryan Kiesel said they are challenging the governor’s office on open records because that has become the only way records have been released. Kiesel said Oklahomans should not have to “lawyer up” in order to get public documents from the Governor.Follow @FortySixNews