First off, let’s get some disclosures out of the way:
My birth date is 6/27/75. I’m a board member for FOI Oklahoma Inc. I signed several sworn affidavits in the court case pursued by The Oklahoman and other media outlets on gaining access to the birth dates and employee ID numbers of state employees for identity verification purposes and for background checks. I was involved in writing articles about the issue last year and this year for my employer.
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association and its legislative backers, including Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, are claiming victory and vindication from Tuesday’s Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in their favor.
You can hear Terrill’s interview about the decision at radio station KTOK. Here’s part of what he said:
I’m the guy who attempted to negotiate the compromise legislation that would have satisfied the interests of everybody concerned. I’m talking about the public employees as well as the interests of the newspapers. Mark Thomas with the Oklahoma Press Association said the Daily Oklahoman and the Tulsa World folks were putting pressure on him that he could not accept that compromise. That’s the reason they took the all-or-nothing approach that they did, and as a result of that, they ended up with nothing, and I’ll tell you what, that is truly unfortunate.
I’m not privy to the discussions Terrill had with Thomas during the 2010 session. All I know is that Terrill’s compromise language would have added a multitude of hurdles to the Open Records Act for the public and the press. When his proposed compromise didn’t make it to the House floor, he tried to make some legislative changes to the Open Records Act in the final days of the session by tacking them onto an omnibus Corrections bill. Those also were not successful.
Meanwhile, here’s what Terrill told reporters from The Oklahoman in a wide-ranging, on-the-record 90-minute interview at the Capitol in March 2010, days before the OPEA filed suit to block the Open Records request for public employee birth dates:
Randy Terrill: Does the public have a right to know? The answer is, in some cases, the public does have a right to know; in other cases, they do not.
Paul Monies: Who makes that determination? You? State agencies? The media? The state troopers association? OPEA? Who makes that final determination?
Randy Terrill: The questions of public policy are resolved by this body. That’s why you’re here interviewing me.
Now, more than a year later and after his legislative changes were rejected by his colleagues, Terrill seems comfortable with the Oklahoma Supreme Court resolving this question of public policy. As the dissent by Justice Yvonne Kauger and Chief Justice Steven Taylor makes clear, they believe the Legislature should be making those decisions on public policy:
This is a matter of statutory construction. The statute involved is the human resources statute within the Open Records Act. Although the Legislature has amended 51 O.S. supp. 2005 §24A.7 three times since its inception in 1985, it has never chosen to include the date of birth. If the Legislature desires to do so, it certainly can.
Related DataWatch posts:
- One year later: Attorney General opinion on public employee DOBs still unresolved
- Oklahoma brings in millions by selling DOBs of drivers, voters
- Special mailing list deal for Oklahoma Public Employees Association
- ‘Privacy pirates’ and the politics of fear
- How many state employees are sex offenders?
Written by Paul Monies