OU Foundation lawsuit hearing over open records rescheduled to May

By BILL HICKMAN, FOI Communication Coordinator

The University of Oklahoma Foundation says it's not subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Or is it?

OU and similar foundations solicit donors for tax-exempt funds. Besides scholarships and academic financial support to the university, foundations typically don't have to reveal the amount of lawsuit settlements totaling millions of dollars when universities are sued. These settlements come from foundation funds.

A lawsuit against the OU Foundation may change that status for its nonprofit entity and other state university foundations.

Fred Gipson, former OU legal counsel, has contended in a lawsuit against the OU Foundation that the foundation's use of "State of Oklahoma official mail" shows that the foundation is a public body subject to the Open Records Act.

The lawsuit seeks to reveal details of a development project involving OU and the City of Norman.

The implications are significant if the judge rules against OU's foundation. Similar university foundations in Oklahoma may find themselves forced to reveal lawsuit settlements, for one. Out-of-state foundations could use Gipson's successful argument as persuasive to open records.

Understandably, both sides are discussion the issue. Little wonder, given what's at stake here for university financial records.

A hearing has been reset for May.

William Hickman