Attorneys Accuse OTA Of Altering ACCESS Oklahoma Documents

Attorneys in Cleveland County who have accused the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority of “acting in bad faith” will be allowed to depose two agency staffers, a judge ruled Friday.  

Friday, October 28th 2022, 8:57 pm



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Attorneys in Cleveland County who have accused the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority of “acting in bad faith” will be allowed to depose two agency staffers, a judge ruled Friday.  

Judge Timothy Olsen granted the group’s request to depose Jenny Johnson and Todd Gore, two OTA staffers who posted two OTA Commission meeting agendas that are now at the center of a transparency lawsuit.  

“The OTA’s staff clearly intended to, and did, alter the documents to sabotage Plaintiffs’ (Open Meeting Act) challenge,” attorneys representing a group of more than 240 Cleveland County residents wrote in a recent filing.  

Attorney Richard Labarthe is a lead attorney for the group, which is accusing the OTA of willfully altering the agendas of the January and February 2022 meetings in order to appear more transparent.  

 “The OTA’s staff clearly intended to, and did, alter the documents to sabotage Plaintiffs’ (Open Meeting Act) challenge,” the group alleged in a recent filing.  

The OTA denies any substantial change occurred and called the allegation “manufactured” in court filings.  

“The latest unfounded allegations are false and factually inaccurate,” an OTA spokesperson said in a statement to News 9. The claims “will be proven to be completely without merit,” the spokesperson said.  

Officials’ signatures added to the agendas after each meeting were the only changes to the documents, the OTA argued in a court filing.  

The January and February agendas currently available on the OTA website are 47 and 52 pages, respectively. They include descriptions of ACCESS Oklahoma projects including the proposed South Extension turnpike through Cleveland County. The South Extension has drawn the ire of numerous homeowners in Eastern Norman.  

Related: Norman Photographer Documents Human Cost Of Turnpike Expansion 

The group claims shorter versions of each agenda, only 5 pages each, were available to the public prior to the meeting. These shorter versions, which are accessible via an internet archive, do not include the same description of ACCESS Oklahoma projects.  

Labarthe said they believe the agendas were changed after the lawsuit was filed in May.  

Related: Group of 150+ File Lawsuit Aiming To Stop Oklahoma Turnpike Construction Alleging Transparency Violations 

“In total, it's close to 100 extra pages of matter that (the OTA has) presented as if they were in the agenda that we contend were not in the agenda,” Labarthe said.  

Labarthe and other attorneys have argued the change violates state transparency laws. The group asked Judge Olsen to rule against the OTA by effectively nullifying the actions taken by the OTA board during the January and February meetings.  

“The Turnpike Authority would not be precluded from starting over (on ACCESS Oklahoma), they could do that,” Labarthe said. “But this time around, they would have to do so in a manner that would allow the public to know what they're proposing.”  

Labarthe said they are seeking permission to depose officials at Poe & Associates and Jessica Brown, the director of strategic communications for the Oklahoma Transportation Cabinet. Both have opposed and have asked the court to deny the motions for depositions.  

A hearing on the claims related to the meeting agendas will likely take place in late November.  


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