Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association bill to full House for vote but provides access only to records

The full House will vote on a bill that would give the public access to the records 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 specifically name the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association as a public body subject to the state Open Records Act.

The bill passed the state Senate on March 4 by a 41-0 vote. The House General Government Committee approved the legislation by a 10-0 vote on Tuesday.

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."

Unfortunately, SB 1729 does not specifically subject the OSSAA to the state Open Meeting Act as well. And because the bill specifically adds OSSAA to the state Open Records Act, the status of any similar organizations will remain unsettled.

SB 1965, filed originally by Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, would have amended 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."

However, that language was replaced with legislation modifying the state's hate crime statutes. Under the new bill, by Sen.
Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, reports collected during hate crime investigations that do not result in a conviction would be destroyed or kept by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

SB 1729, if passed by the House, would take effect on Nov. 1.

Coverage of the OSSAA issue:

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.