OSBI finishes investigating allegation that Norman leaders violated Open Meeting Act

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation finished its investigation into an allegation that the Norman City Council and Mayor Breea Clark violated the Open Meeting Act.

OSBI concluded the investigation just one week after the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the violation did occur in a special meeting that was held on June 16, 2020.

Cleveland County Sheriff Chris Amason asked OSBI to investigate in December after Carter County Associate District Judge Thomas Baldwin stated in a summary judgment that the meeting in question was a ” willful violation’ of the act,” according to a Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office news release.

“The OSBI will now present its findings to the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office for a determination on prosecution,” the news release states.

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

The Supreme Court on April 13 upheld the Cleveland County District Court’s December ruling, which granted summary judgement 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.

The Supreme Court stated the following in its ruling: “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.”

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 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.

Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed Floyd by pressing his knee against or near Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Three other officers – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao – helped hold Floyd down and kept citizens concerned about Floyd’s well-being at bay as Chauvin kept his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck. All three will be tried in court as well.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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