OU Regents Accused Of Breaking State Law, Violating Constitution At Latest Meeting
OKLAHOMA CITY - In a letter to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, Oklahoma City victims advocate Sara Bana alleges the Board broke state law at its recent meeting.
Addressing the letter to OU’s General Counsel Anil Gollahalli, Bana says the Board broke the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act and acted unconstitutionally by allowing newly appointed, but unconfirmed Regents nominee Gary Pierson to sit in on the six hour long meeting.
“Mr. Gary Pierson has not been confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate to the Board. Therefore, his participation in the Special Meeting as a Regent was unlawful,” Bana wrote in the letter. A
ccording to the Oklahoma constitution, Regents must be confirmed by the State Senate. Bana said in her letter there was no legal precedence for allowing an appointed Regent to be a part of the board’s activity before confirmation.
The meeting was described by the Board Chairman Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes as an “informational” meeting for the board’s newest members although the most recently confirmed regent was present at a previous meeting, meaning the marathon meeting last week was essentially for Pierson.
“By these types of actions what they are doing they are delegitimizing the process, the law and they are disrespecting the people of Oklahoma,” Bana said in an interview after the letter was sent.
Violating the OOMA is a misdemeanor crime and would require the board release all records from the meeting. The disclosure of the meeting records would prove to be a significant blow to the Board’s efforts to keep the findings of the ongoing investigations in to sexual assault and impropriety at OU secret.
OU has hired Atlanta-based law firm Jones-Day to investigate discrepancies in University finances and accusations of sexual assault against former President David Boren and former Vice President Tripp Hall. Both men are also under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
It’s unclear what the release of the Jones-Day report would mean for the state’s work. At the last meeting Rainbolt-Forbes said she would need to check with counsel as to whether the findings had been handed over to the OSBI.
In its response the Board says Bana made “several incorrect legal assertions.” It argues Pierson is able to serve as a full Regent because he was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of Clay Bennett who resigned earlier this year due to health reasons.
“On April 16, 2019, Governor Stitt appointed Gary Pierson as a member of the Board of Regents ‘with full membership powers and privileges’ on an ‘interim basis pending Senate confirmation.’” A statement from OU Spokesperson Lauren Brookey citing there was precedent and Attorney General opinions although the statement did not name any nor link to any.
Bana said she was hoping the Board would comply with her letter, having not gotten a response at the time of her interview. She did not however rule out a lawsuit.
“As a public advocate I will utilize every peaceful avenue available to us within our democracy to get you to justice and the respect that you deserve as a human being,” She said.