AG's Office: Meeting minutes must include member votes

Enid city commissioners have made at least 35 appointments since June 2013 using a procedure the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office said violates the Open Meeting Act requirement that such votes be "publicly cast and recorded." Enid News & Eagle reporter Dale Denwalt noted today that the entire membership of two new committees was appointed by this secret-ballot process.

The commissioners write their initials next to an applicant's name on a ballot. A staff member counts the ballots. The applicant with the most votes wins.

But no announcement of how each commissioner voted. No record of the votes in the meeting minutes, Denwalt wrote.

Commissioners were considering using this procedure to appoint an interim commissioner, Denwalt reported Sunday.

On Wednesday, Enid City Attorney Andrea Chism took issue with calling that procedure a "secret ballot."

Through a city spokesman, Chism told the newspaper that anyone could submit an open records request for the ballots to see how each commissioner had voted on a particular board appointment.

What a steaming pile of horse excrement. To claim that such a secretive procedure would suffice under the Open Meeting Act is wrong and insults the public's intelligence.

I am not alone in disagreeing with Enid's voting procedure.

"The votes of each board member must be publicly cast and noted in the minutes," said First Assistant Attorney General Tom Bates at an open government training seminar in Woodward Thursday.

Bates' statement confirms what another top AG official wrote in 2012.

"In light of the [Open Meeting] Act's requirement that such votes be publicly cast and recorded, minute entries stating 'Motion Carried' and 'Motion Passed 3-2' are not sufficient to comply with the Act," wrote Sandra D. Rinehart, senior assistant attorney general.

"Instead, the minutes must record the way each member voted," she wrote in an update on the statute.

That seems so obvious to everyone but the Enid city commissioners and their city attorney.


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.