The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 28, 2014

Expert: Board’s Enid meeting violated law

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Board of Education’s meeting in Enid Thursday may have violated the Open Meetings Act, forcing the board to meet again Tuesday to vote on several items that are invalid, because not enough notice was given to the public.

Board members originally scheduled their Thursday meeting in Oklahoma City, but only notified the secretary of state of the location change a day before coming to Enid.

According to state law, any change in the agenda must be submitted 10 days in advance of the meeting.

State Department of Education spokesman Phil Bacharach said it “would appear to be the case” that the notification went out too late.

“Certainly the department sent out news advisories, email advisories, weeks before hand to education stakeholders, to media. It was certainly always their intention to provide adequate notice,” he said.

Oklahoma State University journalism educator and open meetings expert Joey Senat said in a blog post Friday the votes taken in Enid are invalid pursuant to state law.

“But simply re-voting won’t be enough to cure the violation,” he wrote.

According to attorney general opinions and state court decisions, Senat wrote, the board of education must fully re-evaluate the matters that were considered in violation of state law.

Bacharach said he hadn’t read Senat’s evaluation, but he noted the department’s legal counsel has reviewed the situation.

“In light of the change of venue having been filed with the secretary of state’s office when it was, in an abundance of caution, we think it’s important to re-do those votes and make sure all the action taken there is indeed lawful and to the letter of the law,” he said.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi also was criticized for the board’s misstep Friday. In a strongly worded press release calling the superintendent “tyrannical” and likening her first term to a dictatorship, primary challenger Joy Hofmeister said Barresi has a “casual disregard for the law.”

“It’s time to reject Barresi’s lack of transparency and say no to her continued efforts to break state law. I believe it is sad beyond belief that the example to Oklahoma schoolchildren today from Mrs. Barresi is a complete disregard for the law,” she said. “Breaking the law is never appropriate behavior for students and certainly not for our state superintendent of public instruction.”

Barresi campaign manager Sam Stone said Hofmeister’s statement was too far-fetched to merit a response.

“The only thing I can say on that is once again, she’s showing she doesn’t have a single new idea for how to improve Oklahoma’s schools. All she’s doing is dripping vitriol and I don’t think voters are going to have much fun with that,” he said.