Attorney General supports some selected Sunshine bills in the legislature—but not all


Midway through Sunshine Week, which is observed nationwide each year to celebrate openness and transparency in government, Attorney General Gentner Drummond is highlighting several bills this state legislative session that he said would greatly improve governmental transparency.

He issued his support for three bills to improve transparency, but continued his support of another measure that would not improve transparency at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

While Oklahoma is supposed to be a Sunshine state based on open records and public meetings, the Attorney General’s office stated this week Drummond will support HB2367 to grant exemption of most of the Public Meetings Act to the three commissioners who would be allowed to hold private sessions on administrative matters without notifying the public.

“Government cannot be honest and accountable without first being open and transparent,” said Drummond. “I applaud these efforts to increase the amount of sunlight cast on government actions. Taxpayers have a right to access open records, and they should not have to sue to get them.”

His statement made no reference to Rep. Tammy Townley’s Corporation Commission Efficiency Act which would allow commissioners to meet in private without the public knowing of such meetings.

House Bill 2287 would establish authority for a Public Access Counselor unit housed in the Office of the Attorney General. Under current law, there is no recourse for an individual short of litigation if a governmental entity denies an open records request or indefinitely declines to take action. Under this measure authored by Rep. John Pfeiffer and Sen. Greg McCortney, the Attorney General’s office could review the denied requests and take legal action when appropriate.

The Office of the Attorney General has seen firsthand the need for HB 2287. In March 2023, General Drummond added the position of public access counselor to the office to ensure that state agencies comply with the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts. That counselor, former state Sen. Anthony Sykes, has fielded 174 complaints about possible violations. More than 130 disputes have been resolved as of this writing.

Another measure authored by Rep. Colin Duel would give agencies a 10-day notice if they are being sued for denying records production requests. In doing so, HB 3779 would encourage both the agency and requester to strengthen communication in order to find a resolution.

HB 2730 requires any public body unable to complete an open records request within 10 business days to provide a written notice indicating the reason for the delay and an estimated date of availability. Authored by Reps. Annie Menz, Jacob Rosecrants, Ellen Hefner and Sen. Julia Kirt, the measure unanimously passed the House last week and now goes to the Senate.