Minco mayor, city clerk refuse to release audit approved by City Council two weeks ago

On orders from Minco Mayor Keith McMullen, the city clerk has refused The Minco Millennium's request for a copy of the independent audit of the town's finances, the newspaper reports today.

The City Council discussed the 2009 audit and approved minor changes during a special meeting on Jan. 25, the newspaper said.

The audit was included in the packets of information given to the council members prior to the meeting, the newspaper said.

But on Friday, City Clerk Jana Brown told The Minco Millennium that McMullen told her not to release a copy because it was a draft.

However, the Open Records Act says, "[A] public official may keep confidential his or her personal notes and personally created materials ... prepared as an aid to memory or research leading to the adoption of a public policy or the implementation of a public project." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.9)

The exemption applies only prior to the official “taking action, including making a recommendation or issuing a report.” (Id.)

The audit clearly does not meet the criteria spelled out in the exemption. It was prepared by an outside auditing firm, not by a public official as personal notes "prepared as an aid to memory or research leading to the adoption of a public policy or the implementation of a public project."

The audit was given to council members prior to the public meeting and approved by them at that meeting, according to the newspaper.

As such, the audit given to the council is a public record and should be made available immediately to the newspaper.

Government officials are not only legally but also ethically bound to provide access to public records when requested. If they won't honor those obligations, they shouldn't be in public office.

In this situation, Minco officials seem confused about which records are public or don't recognize that this is the public's business.

Either way, when government officials refuse to hand over clearly public records, they’re stealing our right to be fully informed about what our government is doing so we can efficiently and intelligently exercise our inherent political power. (See OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.2)

McMullen and City Attorney Jeromy Brown have not returned the newspaper's telephone calls regarding the audit since Friday, The Minco Millennium's owner/publisher told the FOI Oklahoma Blog on Tuesday morning.

Kelly Rupp said her attorney is sending a letter requesting that the audit be provided.

BTW, the audit was due to the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector by six months after the close of the fiscal year, which was Dec. 30, 2009, the newspaper said.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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.