Governor Fallin's Open Records Policy Creates Transparency Concern

Tuesday, May 27th 2014, 6:30 pm
By: News 9

Mounting criticism is being aimed at Governor Mary Fallin for a perceived lack of transparency. A backlog of open records requests at her office is keeping Oklahomans in the dark.

News 9 has experienced its own issues in its attempts to obtain public records in recent months.

A February 2014 News 9 request to the governor's office seeking a list of open records requests and responses had not been answered as of late May 2014.

Fallin staffers told News 9 it could take more than half a year to receive the records. On top of the delays, Fallin is facing additional criticism over being the only Oklahoma governor to claim executive privilege on an open records request.

"The governor's office has a duty to provide records," said OSU journalism professor Joey Senat.

Senat is a leading expert in Oklahoma on state and federal laws pertaining to open records. He teaches media law at Oklahoma State University's Stillwater campus.

Fallin has refused multiple News 9 interview requests concerning the criticism. Spokesperson Alex Weintz said the office handles requests on a first-come, first-served basis.

"We just think that's the only fair way to do it," said Weintz.

It's an inefficient way of doing things, according to Senat. A request that may take thousands of documents and months to answer will hold up a request that could be answered in less than five minutes.

"Some [requests] are very large, some are small," said Weintz. "We'll do all of them in the order we get them."

Instead of making the people's records easy to access, Senat said obtaining them seems to be a constant fight.

Weintz told News 9 Fallin has nothing to hide. He said there are simply more requests now than ever before. A new part-time staffer has been hired to review requests made to Fallin's office.