Claremore Daily Progress

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August 16, 2013

Open records? Not so much

Public documents not available in county clerk’s office to newspaper or public

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson’s office refused access Wednesday to the minutes and agendas of several county proceedings requested by the Claremore Daily Progress.
The Open Records Act requires public documents, including minutes, agendas, claims and records of county proceedings be made available for public inspection.
The Progress requested access to the public records of the Rogers County Finance Authority and Rogers County Educational Facilities Authority in the clerk’s office, during business hours.
Agendas and minutes are to be in a book and available to the public, according to state statute.
Title 19 of the Oklahoma State Statute outlines the duties of the county clerk, including “to record in a book for that purpose, all proceeding of the board,” and “to preserve and file all accounts acted upon by the board.” 
Purchasing Agent Nelson McSwain first refused the newspaper access to meeting minutes, agendas and the review of the $33.5 million bond documents.
McSwain, a former field staff auditor for the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Office, is familiar with Open Records Act and acknowledged the files were required to be open to the public.
The bond serves to pay the debt in the Material Services Inc. lawsuit.  Voters approved a measure Tuesday to reduce the debt by approximately $4 million in the next five years.
Hesitant to answer questions on the matter, McSwain said, “I have to get permission to do that [provide access to the files].”
First claiming to not know where the files were located, McSwain later acknowledged it was not his decision to refuse access.
“I am just doing what I was told,” McSwain said.
At least one other record request has been refused in the past, according to McSwain.
The clerk’s office provided access to some of the 2012 files for the two county trust authorities, while refusing access to the more recent meeting minutes and agendas sought by the newspaper. 

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