Posts Tagged ‘Tulsa World’


Transparency Triumph of the Week: Okla. lawmakers block bill to expand attorney-client privilege rights for gov

This is our first edition of Transparency Triumph of the Week, a weekly award that doesn’t actually provide the winners with any money or prizes – just bragging rights and the knowledge that they did something good for Freedom of Information rights this week.

For our first award, the FOI FYI blog is recognizing lawmakers in Oklahoma who blocked legislation that would have expanded the attorney-client privilege that can protect records from disclosure.

The legislation, House Bill 1559, was defeated in a 64-35 vote on May 17, according to the Tulsa World.

If passed, it would have removed language from a statute that allowed the use of attorney-client privilege to protect government records only when the information deals with “a pending investigation, claim or action and the court determines that disclosure will seriously impair the ability of the public officer or agency to process the claim or conduct a pending investigation, litigation or proceeding in the public interest.”

By removing those lines from the statute, the privilege could only have been overcome if requested records were sought by a multi-county grand jury, according to a blog post by FOI Oklahoma Inc.

By voting against the bill, 11 representatives who had previously signed an open government pledge demonstrated their commitment to upholding transparency efforts.

These lawmakers, as listed by FOI Oklahoma Inc., were: John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), David Dank (R-Oklahoma City), Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), Randy McDaniel (R-Oklahoma City), Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), Todd Russ (R-Cordell), Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher), Seneca Scott (D-Tulsa), Emily Virgin (D-Norman), Weldon Watson (R-Tulsa) and Harold Wright (R-Weatherford).

Unfortunately, not all pledge signers supported the bill. Two lawmakers who signed the pledge, Al McAffrey (D-Oklahoma City) and Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa), voted in favor of the bill.

The Oklahoma House blocked the bill this week, but author Fred Jordan (R-Jenks), returned it to conference committee to keep it alive for potential future passage.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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