Jason Murphey: Sooner Football 1 – Transparency 0
What happens when Oklahoma’s favorite sports team goes up against transparency laws?
Last week, a House committee had to choose between OU football and transparency. It was a fascinating test of sports versus good policy. Football won!
The chain of events leading up to the vote started last July when a high-profile OU football player became involved in a physical altercation with a female student. The timing of the incident couldn’t have been worse as nationwide outrage resulted from a similar incident in which video footage of an NFL player participating in a similar altercation with a female became available for all to see.
Under Oklahoma law, video of the OU player’s assault should have been made available to the public. But, in what appeared to be a conspiracy of various Cleveland County governmental entities, the video has never been released. In refusing to follow the law, Cleveland County officials have managed to delay the inevitable release to a time when the nation may not be as interested in the subject matter of football players hitting females.
The refusal to release the video is particularly disturbing as it sends the message that there are two sets of laws: the first for football players and the other for the average citizen.
But, to add insult to injury, the Norman Police Department launched an effort to completely change Oklahoma’s Open Records law. According to testimony provided in committee on last Thursday, the Department approached their State Representative and asked the Representative to sponsor a bill to significantly water down the public’s right to access records.
Amongst other items, the bill, as amended, would increase the fees which must be paid by the public when attempting to access records and would add numerous new exemptions to the law. One of the exemptions is so open ended that it would likely be used to justify withholding many records which are currently accessible under the law. Government agencies are even given standing to simply refuse open records requests in their entirety under certain circumstances.
It’s bad enough when a law enforcement agency refuses to follow the law, but it’s incredible that they would attempt to rewrite the law to deprive Oklahomans of transparency to such a significant extent.
Even worse, the bill received a 10-1 vote of approval from committee members. It now advances to the House floor where the House of Representatives must decide which is more important: OU football or transparency.
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.