Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fourth Reading: Gutting an Agency Is State Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fourth Reading: Gutting an Agency Is State Business

Article excerpt

For several years now, I've listened as one politician after another called for Oklahoma's government to be more transparent and open.

At the same time, many in the journalistic community have echoed those statements, pushing government to make more information available and open to the public. The goal, both sides say, is a better-informed public and a true understanding of how taxpayer money is being spent.

At least that's what people say.

Last week, The Journal Record published a story that relied heavily on records obtained through the state's Open Records Act. Those records included emails and records of text messages sent back and forth between the employees of a state agency and a member of the Oklahoma Legislature.

The request was made, records obtained and analyzed, interviews conducted and the story written and edited.

Yet for some strange reason, this story generated questions about how the records were obtained and whether or not they should be public.

Consider this: A state lawmaker sends and receives messages from two employees of a state agency. The messages were sent at all hours of the day and night. The messages dealt with the employees and function of a state agency. Some have expressed concerns, however, that these messages (including those of a romantic nature) should somehow be exempt from scrutiny.

In addition, critics are now trying to raise questions about how this story came about. In fact, I recently received an email asking if my wife worked for the Department of Environmental Quality, which was the topic of the story. She doesn't. Furthermore, she has no connection to the DEQ, at all.

Still the questions continue, in an attempt to taint the messenger instead of a true examination of the events that took place.

If we as Oklahomans seek to have a responsive and well- functioning government, the records of that government must be open for inspection. …

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