Legislators want Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association subject to state FOI laws

Two bills would give the public access to the records and meetings of the non-profit organization that regulates high school sports and other activities such as music, speech and debate competitions in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 1729, filed by Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, would amend the state Open Records Act to specifically name the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association as a public body.

That bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Laster is a member.

SB 1965, filed by Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, would amend the Open Records and Open Meeting acts to include "any association which coordinates, supervises, and regulates interscholastic activities and contest in which its member schools, including member public schools, pay a fee."

The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for a hearing.

In September, OSSAA's former executive secretary pleaded guilty to embezzling $421,500 from the organization. He admitted to taking the money to pay off loans and gambling debts. He did not go to prison.

Shortly afterward, the new executive secretary, Ed Sheakley, said no one had ever submitted a request for OSSAA's records and he was uncertain how such a request would be handled.

In a posting on this blog, Oologah Lake Leader Publisher John M. Wylie II said the embezzlement case made it "abundantly clear that OSSAA must be classified as a public agency."

"It is funded with public money and should be subject to all the laws that go with that—including annual state audits. Giving OSSAA the discretion to choose what state transparency laws it follows would clearly be a case of letting the fox guard the henhouse," he wrote.

Wylie called upon lawmakers to clarify OSSAA’s status.

"It is the public’s money, not OSSAA’s, and the public has a right to know that it is being spent responsibly," Wylie wrote.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism
as a public body.

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.