OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- A face to face fight between the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority who claims a new turnpike is necessary and hundreds of angry property owners continues.
In February, OTA revealed the Access Oklahoma Program.
It’s a $5 billion, 15-year-long plan reinvesting into much of the current turnpike systems and building new turnpikes to help with congestion on Interstate 35.
The attorney representing 244 Norman area homeowners who would be impacted by this project, Stanley Ward, said they first filed a lawsuit against OTA in May.
The lawsuit challenges OTA’s alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act.
This action contests OTA’s agenda for its meetings on January 25 and February 22.
“In publishing agendas in advance of the meetings wholly failed to alert the public as to either of the two Kickapoo Turnpike ‘extensions,’ the OTA ‘willfully violated public policy of facilitating an informed citizenry regarding the Kickapoo Turnpike extension,'” a Supreme Court document reads.
News 4 looked through both meetings and can confirm in item 844 from the Jan. meeting, the topic of how to finance turnpikes was described as “certain turnpike projects.”
It wasn’t specified what those “certain turnpike projects” were.
Ward added in the February 22 meeting, there are no specific routes listed for turnpikes.
The public wasn’t given adequate time for a project of this size, according to Ward.
Without an agenda topic specifying what will be discussed, there would be no open public comment.
OTA filed a motion to dismiss this claim September 22, but was denied by Cleveland County Honorable Judge Timothy Nelson.
Ward opposes OTA’s attempt to dismiss the claims because he believes the case should go through the process of the district court.
In court filings, Judge Olsen said the motion was denied because “there is potential harm to the Plaintiffs and the public interest by delaying discovery in this case.”
“There are just so much uncertainty. You take someone like my wife and myself, do you repaint your house? You plant a tree? Do you make any improvements? So if they’re going to take your property, you’re just basically put in a holding pattern,” explained Ward.
The OTA is now looking to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to see if district court is the right place for these types of claims.
Judge Olsen stated “the relevant statutes do not support OTA’s argument that the Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction to hear private actions against the OTA for Open Meeting violations.”
An Oklahoma Supreme Court document filed on Monday reveals, “Original jurisdiction is assumed for the purpose of considering Application of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s request for approval of Oklahoma Turnpike System Second Lien Revenue Bonds, Series 2022. Our assumption of jurisdiction does not extend to the matters now pending before the District Court, nor does our assumption of jurisdiction serve to stay the issues now pending before he District Court.”
OTA and Ward stepped before an Oklahoma Supreme Court Judge Referee to share their sides Tuesday morning.
OTA’s attorney told the judge referee Tuesday that OTA cannot be forced to litigate in district court.
News 4 requested an interview with a representative from either OTA or the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, but a statement was provided instead.
“We appreciate the Oklahoma Supreme Court hearing the OTA’s writ filed in the open meetings act case. We believe a ruling on the writ from the Oklahoma Supreme Court will provide clarity as to jurisdiction of the District Court moving forward,” said the OTA.
OTA’s attorney also stated to the judge referee the plantiffs were given a fair warning about this project.
The judge referee said he’ll submit his recommendation in this case for a final decision, but a timeline of when that all would happen could not be provided.
For now, the trial is set to begin December 12 at 9 a.m.