Executive session to discuss property appraisal, purchase limited to public body, its attorney, staff; State settles OMA suit against Tar Creek trust
The Tar Creek relocation trust violated the state Open Meeting Act by allowing the state secretary of environment and appraisers into its executive sessions to discuss appraisals and property purchases, said the court. (LaFalier v. The Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust, 2010 OK 48, ¶ 42).
By an 8-1 vote, the court ordered a district judge to determine if the violation was willful, in which case the minutes of the executive sessions will be made public. (See OKLA. STAT. 25, § 307(F))
An executive session for the purpose of discussing the purchase or appraisal of real property shall be limited to members of the public body, the attorney for the public body, and the immediate staff of the public body. No landowner, real estate salesperson, broker, developer, or any other person who may profit directly or indirectly by a proposed transaction concerning real property which is under consideration may be present or participate in the executive session. (OKLA. STAT. 25, § 307(D))
Taylor noted that the statute "uses the phrase 'shall be limited.'"
Here, we deem 'shall' as mandatory, meaning anyone not listed is excluded from the executive session. Further, by listing those who may attend the executive session, the Legislature must have intended to exclude everyone not listed. Section 307(D)'s clear language is an expression of legislative intent that no one other than those enumerated are allowed to attend the executive sessions wherein the appraisal or the purchase of real property is discussed. (Id. at ¶ 40)
Section 307(D)'s second sentence excludes any landowner, real estate salesperson, broker, developer, or any other person who may profit from the purchase or appraisal of the real property under discussion.
As we construe section 307(D), any person allowed to attend the executive session in the first sentence is excluded if the person stands to profit from the transaction. This is the only plausible construction of section 307(D), and the only construction which honors both sentences of section 307(D). The Trust's position would make unnecessary section 307(D)'s first sentence because, under its position, anyone not standing to profit from the proposed transaction could attend the executive session. (Id. at ¶ 41)
Taylor said that even though an executive order makes the environment secretary "responsible" for the trust, "this does not mean that he is responsible for the Trust's operation." (Id. at ¶ 42)
"Rather, he is a liaison between for the Governor and the Trust," wrote Taylor. "When attending the Trust's meetings in his capacity as the Secretary of the Environment, he is there on behalf of the Governor." (Id.)