OU refuses to release cell phone records; Open Records Act doesn't allow officials to hide public records by placing them in investigatory file

The University of Oklahoma is refusing to release the cell phone records of an assistant basketball coach who resigned this week, The Oklahoman reported today.

OU officials claim the records are part of "confidential litigation files and investigatory reports," the newspaper reported.

But under the state Open Records Act, any records that "would otherwise be available for public inspection and copying, shall not be denied because a public body or public official is using or has taken possession of such records for investigatory purposes or has placed the records in a litigation or investigation file." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.20)

The fact that officials may keep the cell phone records confidential in an investigatory file "does not extend to other files in which the document is kept." (
1999 OK AG 58) (See also 1990 OK 60)

The Oklahoman noted that TMZ.com reported last month that a former Merrill Lynch financial adviser wired $3,000 into an account held by an OU basketball player and his mother last August.

The newspaper said it's not clear whether the investigation shielding the cell phone records is related to OU’s investigation into the relationship between the former financial adviser and the player.

The newspaper requested correspondence between OU's athletic department and the NCAA regarding the former financial adviser. But university officials denied the request, saying the correspondence is part of "confidential litigation files and investigatory reports."

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.