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Freedom of Information Oklahoma releases statement over OU Board of Regents' possible violation of act

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OU's Board of Regents meets in Gould Hall Oct. 23.

Freedom of Information Oklahoma released a statement Sunday saying action taken during a recent OU Board of Regents meeting could violate the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. 

In the statement, the organization said the board was not completely transparent in the selection of a new chairman in its Oct. 22 meeting. The statement also said the item on the agenda under which the board appointed the chairman was too vague to allow the public to know what action it was taking, failing to comply with the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.  

The agenda for the lunch meeting said potential action could be taken in a variety of areas.

“Discussion and potential action pertaining to issues of Board governance,” the agenda read, “including but not limited to issues addressed in the Board Bylaws (e.g. committee and meeting structure and scheduling, communications protocols, Board leadership, agenda protocols), assessment and discussion of Oklahoma higher education structure, and interaction and coordination of institutions currently governed by the Board.” 

The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act dictates the steps public bodies should take to make sure citizens can find out what took place in its meetings. The act, in part, states that meeting agendas “shall identify all items of business to be transacted by a public body at a meeting.” 

In the March meeting when the regents chose their current chair and vice chair, the agenda specified that the chair, vice chair and executive secretary would be selected at the meeting.

Freedom of Information Oklahoma executive director Andy Moore said state news outlets’ reports on the meeting raised red flags for members of his organization, which led them to release a statement.  

“There was a reporter … (NonDoc editor Tres Savage) who happened to be there at that meeting to see it. If he hadn’t been there, there’s a chance that none of us would have known how this went down necessarily, or would have at least taken longer to put two and two together,” Moore said. 

Moore said the board has often struggled with compliance with the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. 

“We gave them our Black Hole award this year, which is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek award identifying an organization or entity that has done a particularly poor job of following the law,” he said. 

In a statement responding to Freedom of Information Oklahoma’s allegations, OU said “every meeting — including committee meetings — was posted and open to the public as well as the media.” 

According to the statement,  the only exception to this was the executive session, which three state lawmakers, as well as members of the Board of Regents, attended.

Moore said if the board was taken to court, the chairman appointment could be rendered null and void. He said Freedom of Information Oklahoma is encouraging the board members to have another meeting where they rescind their previous appointment and then make the appointment the proper way. 

“Put it on the agenda, the way it’s supposed to be on the agenda, and follow the procedures the way that … it’s supposed to be done. That way, they are above reproach in how they conduct their business,” Moore said. 

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