The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 2, 2013

Broken record: Gov. Fallin should release so-called ‘privileged’ records

Staff reports
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — While Gov. Mary Fallin recently released thousands of documents related to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we’re disappointed her office refused to disclose dozens of pages explaining decisions she made connected to the federal health care law.

Citing exemptions to the state’s Open Records Act that media experts say simply do not exist, Fallin’s General Counsel Steve Mullins said 31 documents consisting of 100 pages of materials were withheld from the press based on a claim that they “fall within a privileged category,” according to The Associated Press.

“In this document production, the governor has invoked several legal privileges, including ones involving senior executive branch officials who are offering advice and counsel to the governor,” Mullins wrote. “These privileges are frequently referred to as the executive and deliberative process privileges.”

The ACLU in Oklahoma requested the information on behalf of its client, The Lost Ogle, a self-described “obscure local social blog based out of Oklahoma City.”

According to the Tulsa World, Fallin’s office released 51,029 pages of “non-privileged” communications in response to request from multiple media outlets. But some pages were missing.

Joey Senat, an open government expert, noted that state courts haven’t recognized these privileges and that the state Open Records Act doesn’t include these exemptions.

“The irony is that while many Oklahomans are calling on Fallin to reject what they believe is federal interference in their lives, her attorney is relying in part on federal law to hide government documents from them,” Senat, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University, wrote in a Freedom of Information Oklahoma blog.

Attorney Bob Nelon, a metro-based media and intellectual law specialist, agreed.

“They’re making it up as they go,” Nelon told AP.

Fittingly, FOI Oklahoma recently gave Fallin and Mullins the Black Hole Award, which recognizes someone for damaging the public’s right to know. This has happened before.

“Being governor of Oklahoma has its privileges,” the Tulsa World opined, because Fallin apparently believes she has more than other governors.

Please release the rest of the emails, Gov. Fallin. Your refusals sound like a broken record.