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Government Board Meetings of the Future

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I recently received an assistance request from an individual worried about an impending action by a state agency. He was afraid they were about to approve a policy permitting a certain group of people to ignore a recently approved state law. He wanted to view the agenda of the agency’s next board meeting but couldn’t find the agenda on the agency’s website. Without this information, he couldn’t know when or where the meeting was taking place or even what topics the board would discuss at that meeting.

State Reprenstative Jason Murphey

State Reprenstative Jason Murphey

All too often, state agency board meetings take place in environments that, while technically accessible to the public, in fact provide little public purview. These meetings are held in conference rooms tucked away in the recesses of government bureaucracies across the state.

Imagine the plight of the Idabel businessman regulated by a state agency that holds meetings in a conference room in Shepherd Mall in Oklahoma City. That businessman’s license to practice potentially depends on the benevolence of the agency. Should he really be forced to commute 3½ hours every month to Oklahoma City to attend those meetings? Aside from the cost of travel, this would mean giving up an entire day of productivity at his business.

Consider the situation of a constituent who lives south of Guthrie. He held a private security license and was forced to answer questions from the state agency which regulates his profession. Inexplicably, that agency has its headquarters in the not-so-centrally located town of Ada. Security officers do not make a lot of money, and traveling to Ada is a tremendous inconvenience.

The current version of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act was initially signed in 1977… It’s no longer 1977. It’s time for the Act to evolve to the next level and for state agency meetings to utilize technology to truly provide public access.

I believe that state agency board meetings of the future must be recorded, placed online and remain forever publicly accessible through a centralized repository.

I also suggest members of the public who wish to participate in the meeting should be allowed to do so via video conference. Rapidly evolving technologies have made this possible at little to no expense to state agencies. In this way, the Idabel businessman would be allowed to provide input without having to travel or take a day off work. The Guthrie security officer could speak directly to the board without traveling to Ada.

In addition, a historical reference point will be established when these meetings are placed online. When a governing board extends a promise, it will be online for everyone to see forever. This will provide true accountability by the government to its citizens.

Additionally, the public will have purview of the meeting at the convenience of their own time and schedules. No longer must they take time away from their busy schedules because the data will be publicly accessible online.

I suggest that the Secretary of State’s online portal provide a potential web-based repository for archived state agency footage. The Secretary of State currently serves as the curator for state agency meeting notices and this would be a logical extension of that service.

This important concept could advance through legislation as soon as the 2014 session and will codify the next logical evolution of Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

  1. A Citizen
    October 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Who will pay for THIS? Oh, and I tried to find YOUR agenda for the Government Modernization meeting (last week?) and “I” couldn’t find it! Just like OBAMACARE is good enough for the citizens and should be good enough for those who govern, the Open Meetings Act in Oklahoma SHOULD also apply to the COMMITTEES of our State Legislature. Until YOU start posting YOUR agendas, don’t throw that first stone! I can guarantee that the agency of which you spoke DID have their posted; it was likely user error in finding it! But also, if you aren’t willing to pay for all the EQUIPMENT and the PEOPLE to operate it, this is another busted idea. Good in principle only. No teeth if it’s unfunded. By the way, I also listened to that Modernization meeting online (though I could not find the agenda…) and then I also read the minutes from it… THEY DON’T MATCH (the minutes and what happened). The minutes truly minimized what “Pettit” and “Doerflinger” (spelling?) had to say in a very large way. VERY large. Why did we need to minimize their input so much? The minutes were made to make it sound much better than it was…shamefully done in my opinion. I personally don’t think anyone could listen to a recording of that meeting (YOUR meeting) and read the minutes and think they were the same event. Certainly had a “slant” to the minutes. You want to go the next step? APPLY THE OPEN MEETINGS ACT TO THE LEGISLATURE’S COMMITTEE MEETINGS. THAT would be the next “logical” step, don’t you think? And it wouldn’t cost us anything either.

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