TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma judge has ruled that the governor’s office and a public safety agency violated the state Open Records Act when they didn’t respond to a newspaper’s request for records in a timely manner.
The case involves requests filed by the Tulsa World and a former editor with Gov. Mary Fallin’s office and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety days after the 2014 botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett. The lawsuit also sought records related to the execution of Charles Warner.
Oklahoma’s Open Records Act requires public bodies to provide “prompt, reasonable access” to its records. The law also says that public bodies “may establish reasonable procedures which protect the integrity and organization of its records and to prevent excessive disruptions of its essential functions.”
Judge Lisa Tipping Davis ruled Friday that the process resulting in delays in excess of 17 months wasn’t “prompt or reasonable.” She said the newspaper’s request wasn’t formally denied, but it’s still “uncontroverted that no documents were produced prior to the lawsuit being filed.”
Tulsa World Executive Editor Susan Ellerbach said she was proud of the newspaper’s persistence and perseverance.
“It’s been a very long and arduous process for all involved,” Ellerbach said. “But the question was whether or not our government officials responded correctly to our Open Records request and the fact is they did not.”
Michael McNutt, communications director for the governor’s office, said Fallin hasn’t decided whether she will appeal the ruling.
“The governor’s office believes that the amount of time it took to respond to the open records request in light of the 45,000 pages of response, the sensitive subject matter, and the amount of staff available to deal with the request was reasonable,” McNutt said.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com