Okfuskee County Commission's secret budget session apparently will be investigated for Open Meeting Act violation
Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook likely will ask Attorney General Scott Pruitt to investigate a secret budget meeting of the County Commission or appoint another prosecutor to do so, Cook told the Okemah News Leader late last week. "Since it is a pending case and I am not suppose to comment on a pending case, I can say very little," Cook told the newspaper.
"It is very likely because of ethics for prosecutors in the state of Oklahoma, it will require that I disqualify my office. I will ask the attorney general to handle the matter or appoint another district attorney."
The three county commissioners -- Chairman Danny Wilson, Vice Chairman Bruce Smith and Max Henry -- did not provide public notice or post an agenda for a budget session with the county budget writer and County Clerk Dianne Flanders this past Monday.
The Open Meeting Act requires public notice and a posted meeting agenda when the majority of a public body even discusses public business, as this blog explained Wednesday.
The commissioners conducted the session after adjourning from their regular meeting. Okemah News Leader reporter Shakara Shepard had left but saw the county budget writer, Dan Hall, walking into the meeting room. She followed him back into the room.
According the newspaper's account of the session, the commissioners did more than discuss the county budget. The newspaper reported:
The commissioners made several decisions during the unposted meeting regarding various amounts of taxpayer money. Amounts were added and amounts were subtracted during the discussion. Some offices requested their department receive more money for the fiscal year. Travel expenses were added back into the budget as well.
Hall told the commissioners he would finish the budget and send the final copy to them for their approval, according to the newspaper.
Violating the Open Meeting Act is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 and one year in the county jail. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 314))
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.