Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds ruling Norman City Council violated Open Meeting Act when cutting police department budget

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld a previous court ruling that the Norman City Council violated the Open Meeting Act when they cut the Norman Police Department’s budget in June.

The Cleveland County District Court granted summary judgement in December in favor of the Fraternal Order of Police, the organization that brought the lawsuit against the City of Norman following the June 16 special meeting when the Council voted to cut $865,000 from the Police Department’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The District Court judge said the notice for the meeting “was deceptively worded or materially obscured the stated purpose of the meeting and is therefore a willful violation” of the Open Meetings Act.

Norman City Council
The Norman City Council holds a meeting on whether to defund the city’s police department.

The Supreme Court upheld that ruling on Tuesday, April 13, saying in part, “The question before this Court is whether City of Norman, Defendant/Appellant, complied with the statutory notice requirements of the Open Meeting Act, 25 O.S.2011, §§ 301–314, for its June 16, 2020 special meeting. We answer in the negative.”

Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman FOP, issued the following statement about the Supreme Court’s ruling:

“Our members are dedicated to protecting the city every day, and our organization fights to ensure they have the necessary resources to do the job properly. We were shocked when some members of the City Council made it obvious they were so eager to cut public safety budgets they couldn’t even follow the rules. But every court which has reviewed this issue has been clear – politicians are not above the law.

We hope the police department appreciates the hard work the union has put in on its behalf. We look forward to the union, the department and the city creating solutions that benefit everyone in our community.”

ROBERT WASOSKI, NORMAN FOP PRESIDENT

The June 16 special meeting was held three weeks after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minn. Floyd’s death sparked protests throughout the nation and across the globe, with protesters calling for police departments to be defunded and demilitarized.

Norman Citizens for Racial Justice called on Mayor Breea Clark and the city manager to defund and demilitarize Norman Police.

A protest held Sunday, May 31 at the Oklahoma Capitol in response to the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
A protest held Sunday, May 31 at the Oklahoma Capitol in response to the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

City Council member Alexandra Scott initially proposed a $4.5 million cut to police. The money would have been re-allocated in part to public safety sales tax and police sensitivity training.

The meeting started just before 5 p.m. and ended just before 4 a.m. after Council members voted to cut $865,000 from the police salaries and benefits portion of the department’s $31 million budget.

Council members determined $630,000 would go to community outreach and $235,000 will go toward hiring an internal auditor to do regular budget reviews of the city budget.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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