August 11, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY – Twenty months after receiving an Open Records Request from local news and satire outlet The Lost Ogle, and over fourteen months after the ACLU of Oklahoma filed suit to compel their release, Governor Fallin today handed over 100 pages of emails regarding her decision to reject federal funding of Medicaid expansion.

The release preceded a planned appeal of a district court ruling that rejected two of three privilege claims made by the Governor in her administration’s attempt to avoid the requirements of Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. The district court did allow the Governor to claim a “deliberative process privilege”, but the ACLU of Oklahoma is poised to appeal that holding, arguing that no such privilege can be found anywhere in Oklahoma law.

The following is attributable to Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director, ACLU of Oklahoma:

“If the Governor had simply produced these documents nearly two years ago in compliance with the Open Records Act, the people of Oklahoma could have been afforded greater transparency and spared unnecessary legal cost. The precedent the Governor is attempting to create would allow the Executive Branch of our state to hide behind bogus privileges, and only reveal requested documents after months of litigation and before untested legal arguments are reviewed by the state’s highest court. Along with our client, we intend to move forward to ensure that the current and future Governors of our great state do not get a blank check when it comes to following the law.

The following is attributable to Brady Henderson, Legal Director, ACLU of Oklahoma:

“While the people of Oklahoma can celebrate a short-term victory in finally seeing these documents come to light, the long-term problem of a Governor’s Office attempting to place itself above public accountability remains no less real. Our work must now shift to ensuring that the Governor’s Office cannot continue to repeat the same tactics of secrecy and stonewalling that have defined its relationship with the press and people of Oklahoma.”

The suit was originally filed on behalf of Vandelay Entertainment, LLC, parent company of local news and satire outlet The Lost Ogle, who joined with numerous major news organizations in pressing the Governor to release documents relating to her reversal of position on a state health care exchange and rejection of medicaid expansion funding that could have made health coverage available to approximately 200,000 poor Oklahomans.

Oklahoma’s current Open Records Act was enacted in 1985. It requires records created or maintained at public expense to be open to public inspection so that citizens may obtain free information about their government. In the law’s nearly thirty-year history, no prior governor or other executive official has claimed any type of executive or deliberative privilege against complying with its requirement of free access.