Claremore Daily Progress

August 22, 2012

911 Advisory Board to talk about secrecy

Officials cite Homeland Security as reason to limit discussions

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — The Rogers County 911 Advisory Board will discuss Friday in a special meeting whether talking about the operation of the center could present a security risk under Homeland Security.

Janet Hamilton, Rogers County 911 Administrator, released the agenda on last Friday afternoon which included the sole item for discussion at the special meeting slated for 10 a.m. at the OSU Extension Building, 416 S. Brady.
The agenda item is listed as “1. Article in Claremore Progress.  Does holding an open meeting jeopardize the security, integrity, and operations of the 9-1-1 center under Homeland Security.”
The Homeland Security Act specifically lists the primary mission of the act is to:
(A) prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;
(B) reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; and
(C) minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.
For example, providing public access to records or discussions relating to the construction, organization, development, finances and contractual agreements for operations for the new 911 center do not relate to the definition of critical infrastructure within the Homeland Security Act.
These items are just some of the issues that were presented during a recent meeting where the board was cautioned about “security” issues and a need for privacy.
Critical infrastructure refers to the necessary resources or key assets. Emergency services including 911 public safety answering points are considered part of the system, however privacy protections are limited under the act.
The act is designed to protect against “information pertaining to actual, potential, or threatened interference with, attack on, compromise of, or incapacitation of critical infrastructure or protected systems by either physical or computer-based attack or other similar conduct.”
The advisory board’s proposed protection under the Homeland Security Act will likely be based on the protection of critical information including emergency services.
However, as currently presented, Hamilton and Assistant District Attorney David Iski are attempting to use what was designed to protect detailed information that could be tools for terrorist attacks as an umbrella for all operations.
The Homeland Security Act does not support this use to limit public access to information.
It is important to note the act was established to protect against terrorist attack, not open records requests or public meetings.
The advisory board is comprised of the Rogers County Commissioners Helm, Kirt Thacker, Dan DeLozier, Hamilton and other representatives from fire and police in the county.
As a governmental body conducting business, it is legally required to post public notice of its meetings, including an agenda of items that will be discussed in accordance with state statute and the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act.
The Oklahoma Open Meetings Act does provide for a public body to enter into executive session when it discusses matters to personnel, litigation and contract negotiations.  
The act does allow for an executive session when the topic relates to terrorism, but not for the operations of the 911 center.
Rogers County voters approved the extension of a sales tax in 2011 to provide for the $2 million 911 center. 
The public has a right to have the information presented in a public format to provided accountability for how the $2 million will be spent.
During Thursday’s board meeting Helm and Iski, who is legal counsel to the commissioners, briefly left the meeting. When they returned Helm suggested discussing matters about the 911 center would be a security risk.
The advisory board also proposed restricting the public’s access to 911 dispatch recordings without providing any statute to support such a decision.
Helm also said certain inquiries by Washington County officials about possibly joining the Rogers County 911 dispatching service should not be discussed in public.
The proposal has been described as a way to protect public safety issues. As Friday approaches officials are trying to determine if the Homeland Security Act will be the appropriate structure for privacy when dealing with security and public safety issues.
Officials have been looking to find other avenues that will prvide the appropriate security needs and still provide public acess, according to recent reports.
No official action has been taken and it is yet to be determined if the proposed action under the Homeland Security umbrella will actual be used.