“No person of ordinary education and intelligence could know from the Agendas that ACCESS Oklahoma was to be rolled out,” said Judge Timothy Olsen, in his ruling filed last week.
Olsen referred to the agendas from two January and February meetings.
The judge said language was “vague” and that it “shows an intent to deceive the citizenry of Oklahoma.”
He ultimately ruled that OTA violated the Open Meetings Act, and that their violations were “willful.”
“They planned this in secret and then tried to kind of rush everything through,” said Tassie Hirschfeld, the lead plaintiff in the case.
Hirschfeld said hundreds of residents were caught off-guard when they first heard of the plans to expand turnpikes in Central Oklahoma.
“I felt ambushed and I could not imagine how such a massive plan could be in the works without any of us knowing about it,” said the plaintiff.
Following the ruling, Joe Echelle, OTA’s Deputy Director, said that construction will come to a halt.
“While the Authority disagrees with the recent district court’s ruling, OTA acknowledges it and, as a result, has notified the impacted consultants to pause their work on the ACCESS Oklahoma program,” said Echelle, in a statement.
The pause was effective Thursday at noon.
In an email to vendors, Echelle tells them the pause will “remain effective until the Authority Board is able to consider and take corrective action.”
OTA was unable to clarify what “corrective action” meant.
Hirschfeld’s attorney, Richard Labarthe, said the Authority should be more transparent with residents moving forward.
“I’d like to believe that they will take it quite seriously,” said Labarthe. “And won’t just post up in 24 hours ahead of time and try to ram it through again.”
He said more time needs to be allowed for the public to weigh in on turnpike expansion.
“I would like to think that they would unveil their plan fully and then have at least a couple of months in which there can be public discussion and inquiry,” said the attorney.
This case was not the only one challenging ACCESS Oklahoma.
In a separate, undecided case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, it will be determined if OTA had access to begin the turnpike expansion in the first place.