OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin has hired a private law firm to defend her office in an ongoing open records lawsuit.
In February, two Moore moms filed a lawsuit against Governor Mary Fallin after she failed to turn over requested public documents.
Even though the governor’s office has a team of lawyers on staff, and the entire Attorney General’s office at her disposal, her office has hired a private law firm to fight the moms’ request.
“I’m not going away.” said Danni Legg. “I’ve survived an EF-5 tornado and the loss of a child in an EF-5 tornado.”
Legg lost her nine year old son Christopher Legg on May 20th.
She and the six other moms threw their support behind a plan to fund storm shelters in every Oklahoma school when they learned about half a million Oklahoma school children are unprotected in their school building for severe weather.
They formed a non-profit to raise money, Take Shelter Oklahoma.
The group was shocked when Governor Mary Fallin came out against their plan.
The governor said their plan was too costly and too much of a sacrifice of essential state services.
“If they divert the money that’s been proposed in the petition away from the franchise tax that means you have to cut funding for state government for education, health care, public safety, corrections transportation.” said Mary Fallin on October 2, 2013. “There are things that will have to be cut.”
In February Governor Fallin unveiled her school shelter plan during the State of the State address.
Those Moore moms asked the state to release email records that might show why the governor came out against their proposal.
In their Open Records request to the governor and the attorney general Take Shelter Oklahoma asked for all communications between those offices and the Chamber of Commerce or legislators about safety for school children in severe weather.
Three months after the initial request the Attorney General’s office complied and turned over more than 400 emails.
It has now been five months, and so far Governor Mary Fallin has not fulfilled the reqest.
“So far we’ve been stonewalled.” said attorney David Slane. “I think she’s been watching Richard Nixon movies too much. This governor needs to come forward and stop hiding things.”
Slane sued the governor for the records.
According to state statute in Oklahoma the governor’s emails are public just like all elected officials.
Oklahoma citizens are entitled to see how and why elected officials make the decisions they do.
“Whether somebody is a governor or they’re a city clerk, they serve the people, they serve the people of Oklahoma and we feel like the governor is not really acting like it.” said ACLU Legal Director Brady Henderson.
The ACLU is also fighting the governor over an open records request.
Their lawsuit is on-going.
“Here is an office that’s concerned with appearances but clearly not concerned with actually being transparent, being open.” Henderson said.
On the contrary, Governor Mary Fallin’s press office tells us she is the most transparent governor in the history of Oklahoma, turning over more open records than any other governor, combined.
“One way or another we will turn over those documents.” said Communications Director, Alex Weintz.
According to Weintz in the past year Fallin’s office has turned over more than 81,000 documents to Oklahoma citizens.
The Governor’s office processess open records requests first come first served.
There are 18 requests ahead of the Take Shelter Oklahoma request.
“We want everyone to understand that we have lots of requests.” Weintz said. “Some of them are quite large. It can really take a long time to get through them but we’re doing the best we can, and we will hand over those documents.”
Just last week NewsChannel 4 uncovered the latest motion in the ongoing legal battle.
According to court documents, Governor Fallin has hired a private law firm to fight the Take Shelter Oklahoma lawsuit.
Her office confirms the decision and says they had no choice because of a conflict of interest between Take Shelter Oklahoma and the state attorney general’s office as Take Shelter and the A.G. are already at odds in another lawsuit.
“When we get to their request and we release it I think what they’re going to see is a conversation between people in our office about what the best policy is to get storm shelters in school as quickly as possible as affordably as possible and to identify a realistic funding source for that.” Weintz said.
The governor’s office insists they will release those records but they have offered no time frame on when.
“Why will you not turn over these records. If you’ve got the time to meet with private lawyers. You’ve got the money to pay private lawyers. Why couldn’t you have had a staffer pull this together.” said David Slane.