Tahlequah Daily Press


March 10, 2014

Fallin’s refusal to release papers a slap at transparency

TAHLEQUAH — For someone who touted more government transparency as part of her party’s platform, Gov. Mary Fallin sure is keeping a lot of secrets close to her vest.

Fallin has been sued for her refusal to release 31 documents related to the Affordable Care Act. The governor now says she’ll release the records when she leaves office, but the caveat is, she has yet to say whether she’ll delay that release for a certain period of time.

The state’s rather vague Open Records Act has given Fallin all the wiggle room she needs. According to her communications director, the documents have to be archived and then “eventually” opened to the public. If she wins re-election this year, the papers won’t go public until at least January 2019. If she loses, she could turn over records to the Oklahoma Archives and Records Management Divisions as early as January 2015.

Then again, she could keep them almost indefinitely – kind of like the Kennedy family may or may not have done with certain records pertaining to JFK.

If Fallin drags her feet any longer, she’ll be setting a precedent of secrecy in Oklahoma. Administrative Archivist Jan Davis knows of no such limitations placed on records of previous governors, Republican or Democrat. They’ve always made those documents public as soon as they’re processed.

Fallin might also need to take a second look at the Open Records Act – assuming she’s already given it a first cursory glance. She claimed “executive privilege” for withholding the papers – a right not granted to her by law.  Her odd response caught the attention of The Lost Ogle, a satirical website based in Oklahoma City, and that media entity, through the ACLU, filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court.

The documents could be interesting, because they apparently relate to Fallin’s decision not to create a state health care exchange or expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Statewide polls have shown that Oklahomans, while not necessarily fans of ACA, wanted lawmakers to consider a a state-level alternative.

Fallin ought to realize that while her motives for keeping these papers secret might be legitimate, she’s not going to convince anyone except her staunchest supporters. Opacity has no place in government unless national security is involved, and that’s clearly not the case here. Without evidence to the contrary, the rest of us will have to conclude she has something to hide, and that should be embarrassing for a politician in the party of “less government.”

There’s some irony in the timing, since a bill that will purportedly strengthen the state’s Open Meeting Act is now wending its way through the Legislature. As State Rep. Mike Brown said concerning that particular bill, if you don’t want people to know what you’re doing, you have no business in public service.

We agree.

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  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014

  • New chamber head needs to be free from scandal’s taint

    Every time another layer is peeled off the unfolding saga of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce embezzlement case, those going through the records hope they might see a light at the end of the tunnel. So far, that hasn’t happened.

    June 30, 2014


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