OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a ruling that reverses a previous decision by a district court, regarding the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Read the full decision, including the dissenting opinion, here.

In May of 2022, more than 200 property owners in Norman filed a lawsuit against OTA, claiming the agency violated the state’s Open Meeting Act.

The lawsuit focused on OTA’s meetings on January 25, 2022 and February 22, 2022.

The property owners claim the meeting agendas focused on vague ‘turnpike projects,’ saying the OTA didn’t provide ‘sufficient or timely notice of the new proposed turnpikes’ the agenda.

A Cleveland County judge agreed, saying the agency failed to inform the public about the intended routes on its meeting agendas.

Now, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has issued a ruling in the case.

According to the court documents, the Oklahoma Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court’s ruling.

“We hold that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority gave sufficient notice of the agenda items that the landowners challenge. We further rule that the lack of notice regarding the announcement of the ACCESS Oklahoma Program at the February 2022 meeting did not violate the Open Meeting Act because the announcement was for informational purposes only,” the ruling states.

The Supreme Court states that since no ruling was made by the OTA’s board regarding the ACCESS Plan during those meetings, the OTA could not have violated the Open Meetings Act.

“When Governor Stitt announced the ACCESS Program during the Director’s Report, the Board did not transact any business during the presentation or as a result of the presentation. The Board did not engage in any deliberation or decision-making or take any action after the Governor’s announcement. The presentation was merely an informational announcement, and under the OMA, the OTA did not need to specify the presentation on its agenda within the Director’s Report,” the court ruled.

Following the ruling, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said it was “black day for transparency in Oklahoma state government.”

“Today’s 5 to 3 Supreme Court opinion marks a black day for transparency in Oklahoma state government.  It’s extremely unfortunate that the Open Meeting Act has been effectively neutered.  No clearer case of open meeting act violation can be imagined.

While many hundreds of landowners will be adversely impacted by this decision, the biggest losers are the citizens of Oklahoma who simply want what the Act expressly states it is about — namely, to be informed as to the business that our local and state governments are up to.

Matters are still pending before the Supreme Court that will decide the fate of the access Oklahoma program and we will continue to pursue all options to preserve our many clients’ properties from the OTA’s unfortunate overreach.”

Stan Ward

OTA statement on Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on OMA case:

“The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is grateful that the Oklahoma Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of this important case. Today’s decision confirmed that the agency complied with all requirements of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act regarding Authority board meetings conducted in January and February 2022. Since these claims were first filed, the Authority has maintained that it acted in full compliance with the OMA, one of Oklahoma’s most important statutes. OTA always strives to go above and beyond the minimum legal requirements in how it conducts the public’s business and does so as transparently as possible. The agency will continue to operate in this manner and remains fully committed to complying with the Open Meetings Act. We want to be clear that this ruling does not provide Supreme Court validation of proposed bonds to construct and operate new turnpike routes. That ruling is still pending and as such, the Authority will continue to pause work related to the ACCESS Oklahoma long-range plan.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority