Claremore Daily Progress

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March 28, 2014

Suit alleges city ignored records request in police videos case

City manager Thomas denies accusation


Attorney Josh Lee has sued the City of Claremore for failure to produce records detailing the cost of defending an earlier lawsuit over withholding videos of police stops captured by dashboard-mounted patrol car cameras.
Lee said he first submitted the request Jan. 23 under the Oklahoma Public Records Act, and then repeated it Feb. 13, but has yet to receive the data. 
He filed the suit to force the issue Monday.
Judge Sheila Condren scheduled a May 7 hearing on the matter.
“The documents requested were made available to the attorneys in question and that was communicated to them by Mr. Ballard,” said City Manager Jim Thomas. “The city does not have an obligation to hand carry such a request to those who have asked, nor is the city in the business of reading lawyers minds.”
City Attorney Matt Ballard, who said the latest suit took him by surprise, said he had collected the records after receiving Lee’s initial request and informed Lee they were ready for pick up.
“We made it very clear in a friendly phone conversation that we would turn these records over,” said Ballard. “And then we heard nothing more.”
Lee had challenged the city’s right to withhold police dashboard videos last year, winning a favorable ruling from an appeals court in June that overturned a local judge’s decision the patrol videos were not subject to public disclosure.
Ballard said Lee’s latest litigation is based more on political motives than anything else, saying he first learned of the suit when John Wylie, publisher of the Oologah Lake Leader, called him to comment on it.
“I would suspect,” said Ballard, “this has more to do with the controversial antics of current District Attorney Janice Steidley and the criminal defense lawyers who support her, and who have made a practice of division that has disrupted our justice system for too long in Rogers, Craig and Mayers counties.”
Lee is connected to Steidley through her legal dispute with Claremore policeman John Singer over the district attorney’s contention that Singer committed perjury in a sexual abuse investigation. Singer denies the accusation and has a federal lawsuit pending against the DA.
Wylie is a Steidley campaign contributor in addition to his public relations company having done research for the district attorney in the past. 

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