Claremore Daily Progress

August 25, 2013

County clerk accuses Progress reporter of harassment

Sheriff: No plans to pursue matter


Staff Reports

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson is accusing a Claremore Daily Progress reporter of harassing her and her staff in a confrontation over public records.
Anderson called the sheriff’s office on Aug. 14 to complain that reporter Salesha Wilken created a disturbance in her office that afternoon.
Wilken had asked to see public meeting minutes and agendas not posted in county record books. Anderson and her staff refused Wilken’s request, prompting the reporter to question the apparent violation of the state’s Open Records law.
Sheriff Scott Walton released a report of the incident on Friday, which 
the clerk’s office claims the reporter asked to enter the clerk’s secured inner-office and harassed Anderson.
The report by Deputy Daniel Welch notes that Wilken provided an audio recording of the exchange the following day. The recording shows the reporter made no threats and no request to enter the inner-office.
Anderson claims Wilken illegally recorded the conversation. State law allows for such recordings as long as one party to the conversation is aware of it.
Walton said he does not intend to pursue the matter.
“The obligation of the sheriff’s office is to take reports on any alleged crime. We have reviewed the audio and it did not reveal anything of concern,” he said.
Claremore Progress Publisher Bailey Dabney called Anderson’s complaint a “diversion.”
“The law requires open government for a number of very good reasons. This seems like a farcical diversion in order to move focus off of the fact that public records that are required to be available are not being made available,” Dabney said.
“My reporter was there doing her job. Fortunately, the entire event was recorded and that recording clearly demonstrated that this whole ruse was just that,” he said.
Wilken sought agendas and minutes of the county’s Finance Authority and the Educational Facilities Authority, as well as documents related to a $33.5 million municipal bond. Earlier this month, voters approved a measure to reduce the bond debt by $4 million over the next five years.
State laws require the clerk to keep a book of all proceedings of county boards, and to make those records available to the public upon request.
Anderson’s complaint against Wilken is similar to one filed in May against Claremore resident and business owner Myron Grubowski.
That complaint, filed by Anderson’s first deputy, Shirley Shields, accused Grubowski of threatening Anderson and Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm while he was filing a dispute of the May 14  election for a one-cent sales tax.
Grubowski never spoke to Anderson and Helm directly. The sheriff’s office has not taken further action in that matter, either.
“The sheriff’s office is once again using resources to assess allegations based on a perceived personality conflict, when we could better serve citizens pursuing career criminals,” said Walton.