OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Protestors were seeking to take part in public comment at a regularly scheduled Oklahoma Turnpike Authority meeting Tuesday, but said they were turned down after the agency said no item on the agenda warranted public comment and they don’t have to provide the opportunity in the first place.
Three protestors spoke about their frustrations in front of the Department of Transportation building near NE 21st Street and North Central Avenue Tuesday morning.
“Standing outside in the hot summer sun to talk with you because the OTA board refused our request to speak at today’s meeting,” said Tassie Hirschfeld. “We believe this is a mistake on the part of the board and the OTA leadership.”
None of them were too pleased after being turned down on the opportunity for public comment regarding a number of topics on their mind.
“They told me we needed to send a request 15 days in advance,” Randy Carter said.
So, Carter said he did that for himself, Hirschfeld, and protestor Amy Cerato. He got an email back, however, saying that they wouldn’t allow it because public comment is not a regular item on the agency’s monthly agenda.
It said in part “The OTA has determined that there are no agenda items anticipated where public comment is necessary.”
“How are we supposed to know what’s specific on the agenda 15 days in advance when the agenda is never published a day or two before the meeting?” Carter said.
The email mentioned that public comment is only done when the agency sees it’s necessary for the boards consideration for an item for an item of business presented for approval. A statement was issued by the chairman of the agency in the meeting that said in part, “the open meeting act does not require a public body to take public comment,” which is true.
He went on to say they have made exceptions before in other Oklahoma Turnpike Authority meetings. The full transcript can be read below.
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However, Carter said they are still upset they can’t give their thoughts on a number of topics Tuesday morning.
“Isn’t the business of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority the business of the citizens of Oklahoma?” he said.
“Current OTA project cost estimation and contract execution, failing to stay within approved budgets, unfettered cost overruns and spending large sums of money on activities like suppressing public discourse are some reasons why I believe it cost the OTA more per mile to build a road than the Oklahoma Department of Transportation,” Amy Cerato said.