Muskogee DA to County Commission: "We're going to follow the law. It's as simple as that."

A fouled-up agenda led to some heated words between Muskogee's district attorney and county clerk on Monday (July 20) regarding Open Meeting Act requirements.

It ended with County Clerk Karen Anderson calling District Attorney Larry Moore an "ass," according to a source who was at the meeting.

The verbal exchange came after Moore refused to allow an emergency meeting of the County Board of Commissioners on Monday, the Muskogee Phoenix reported.

Anderson had tried to call the emergency meeting because the wrong date for Monday's regular meeting was listed on the posted agenda.

Anderson argued that the county could lose some interest on deposits and could have to pay late fees to vendors if purchase orders weren’t approved Monday, the newspaper reported.

However, Moore said an emergency meeting was not justified because Anderson could call a special meeting for Wednesday (July 22) without sustaining any financial loss.

In what the newspaper described as "a heated verbal exchange," Anderson argued that state law allowed her to call a meeting of the county commissioners. Moore countered that such a meeting would still have to comply with the Open Meeting Act.

“I’m tired of catching grief on some of this stuff,” Moore said. “We’re going to follow the law. It’s as simple as that.”

Moore then gathered his papers and left. The newspaper reported that Anderson called Moore a name and said, “I’m not going to be talked to like that.”

The Open Meeting Act allows public bodies to conduct emergency meetings "for the purpose of dealing with an emergency.” An emergency “is defined as a situation involving injury to persons or injury and damage to public or personal property or immediate financial loss when the time requirements for public notice of a special meeting would make such procedure impractical and increase the likelihood of injury or damage or immediate financial loss.”
(OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 304(5))

If Moore is "tired of catching grief" over open meeting issues, he might be able to quiet his critics by prosecuting violations. That would make officials think twice before thumbing their noses at the public's right to know, which would leave taxpayers with fewer reasons to fuss at him.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.