NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma judge ruled in favor of the Fraternal Order of Police Thursday, saying that the Norman City Council violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act in an 11-hour June meeting where they defunded the Norman Police Department.
“They’re trying to circumvent the will of the people,” said Russ Smith said, the spokesperson for Unite Norman.
Smith, among others, spoke out Thursday about the ruling. It dates back to mid-June, the eleventh hour, literally, when the Norman City Council voted to take $865,000 from the Norman Police Department budget. The money was earmarked at the time for community outreach and to hire an internal auditor to do reviews of the city budget.
“How does that make you feel, Norman?” Smith said. “Do you love that? Do you love that you vote for something and the city is going to circumvent it and find a way to get it anyway? No. Nobody likes that.”
However, Thursday the ruling came down, rendering the vote invalid. The judge calling it a “willful violation” of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.
This is because the Norman City Council first discussed changes to police funding the week before. At that time, Mayor Breea Clark moved to delay discussion so the budget could be revised. The judge said the language used in the public notice for the meeting’s agenda was “deceptively worded” and that it “materially obscured the stated purpose of the meeting.”
The judge further wrote that “the city council’s action of defunding the Norman Police Department’s budget and reallocating funds to other departments and projects exceeds the scope of the purpose of the meeting and is therefore, invalid.”
“They don’t care about you as a Norman citizen, they don’t care about your public safety,” Smith said. “They certainly don’t care about your vote or the will of the people, and a judge saw that today.”
The city released a statement of their own, saying they fundamentally and respectfully disagree with the ruling. In their statement they said, “The city believes its citizens have a right to influence the decisions of their elected officials through open public discourse.” They also said the court’s decision has a “direct negative impact on this right and is inconsistent with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Open Meeting Act.”
You can read their full statement below. In it, they also said they plan to appeal the ruling.
You can also read the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act below. Included in it is the punishment for violating the act. Its language reads “Any person or persons willfully violating any of the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one (1) year or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
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