Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff is looking for reasons not to disclose how Fallin made the decision to return a $54 million federal grant last year after originally accepting it. Right or wrong, such maneuvering leaves the impression she has something to hide.
The Oklahoman sought emails from the governor’s office through an open records request. Fallin’s legal counsel rejected the request, citing executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. He said releasing such emails would hinder the ability of policymakers to have productive internal discussions.
But an expert in Oklahoma’s open records laws says once a personal note or memo becomes a recorded conversation or directive, it isn’t personal anymore. And executive privilege isn’t an exemption under Oklahoma law.
A 2009 opinion from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office was clear: “Emails, text messages, and other electronic communications made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, the expenditure of public funds or the administration of public property, are subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.”
Fallin and legislative leaders accepted the $54 million grant to establish a federal health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Only after getting blowback from fellow Republicans did Fallin do an about-face.
The taxpayers who paid for the grant and who would have used the exchange deserve to know more about what went down.