Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter lost a bid to get a lawsuit over his sealing of an audit of a Tar Creek Superfund site trust thrown out of court. Instead, Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia Parrish ruled the lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability can continue.
The suit was filed because Hunter, following the actions of former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, withheld the audit of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust. It was an audit that State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones suggested there had been criminal wrongdoing in how contracts were handed out for the relocation of residents in the superfund site.
The Campaign for Accountability contended that the audit should be public record. Judge Parrish did not go so far, in her ruling, to order it revealed to the public.
“I’m not actually ordering production today,” stated the judge in court. “All I’m doing is saying the case is not being dismissed. But by denying it, I’m basically denying all of Mr. Hunter’s defenses as to why the document shouldn’t be released.”
Jones has been at odds with the attorney general’s office over the audity and supports its release.
“We’ve always erred on the side of transparency,” he said after the judge’s ruling “and we’re pleased with the fact that the judge has made a decision based on the merits of the argument.”
Hunter disagreed with the judge’s ruling saying the precedent was untenable.
“The idea that some out-of-state group can come in and hector the state into producing what are clearly investigative files is not something that our office can support,” he said.
Hunter maintains the auditor’s files are really those of the attorney general, claiming the auditors were working for the attorney general at the time.
“I’ve got a responsibility as the chief legal officer of the state to protect the integrity of investigative files, investigative records. Otherwise, innocent people are going to be put into the marketplace and criticized,” added Hunter.
The attorney general’s office has 30 days to file a written response to the judge’s ruling. Judge Parrish indicated that if she decides to order the audit to be made public, she will give the attorney general another 30 days to file an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, should Hunter decide to take it there.