Jenks Public Schools won’t say where suspended football coach has been reassigned or what he is doing to earn $94,000 salary

A Jenks Public Schools District official says no documentation was created that explains suspended football coach Allan Trimble’s current assignment or duties, The Tulsa World reported today.

“These matters were conveyed to him orally,” district spokeswoman Tara Thompson wrote in an e-mail response to the newspaper’s request for such a record.

The state Open Records Act specifically makes available a public employee’s title or position. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.7(B)(3))

Jenks district officials will say only that Trimble is "assisting with administrative duties and special projects at a Jenks Public Schools site."

Trimble was recently suspended following an investigation that exposed multiple recruiting violations.

Thompson said the district is not required to create a document clarifying Trimble’s current job and, therefore, won’t.

How, in the name of good government, can the Jenks Public Schools District not have in Trimble’s personnel file a record of where he’s working and what he’s supposed to be doing?

How could he be evaluated on his job performance without such documentation?

How could anyone other than the official who conveyed that information to Trimble know what his job expectations are?

Does the school district not keep such records for any of its employees?

Hiding the information only raises suspicions that Trimble isn’t doing much, if anything at all, to earn his more than $94,000 salary.

If Jenks school officials want this story to go away, they should be forthcoming with taxpayers and quit trying to find clever ways around the state’s Open Records Act.

After all, Oklahomans “are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government.” (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.2)

That's because, "as the Oklahoma Constitution recognizes and guarantees, all political power is inherent in the people." The purpose of the Oklahoma Open Records Act is “to ensure and facilitate the public’s right of access to and review of government records so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.” (Id.)

Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman and the Jenks Public Schools Board of Education should make the information available.

If they don’t, voters might want to consider more open-government-minded candidates when they next elect school board members. According to the district Web site, School Board President Jon Phillips and member Ron Barber are up for re-election in 2010.

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.