Note: This is part #2 of a muti-part blog post series on the four Ward Lee & Coats cases that were discussed in the recent District Attorney debate for Rogers, Craig, and Mayes counties. One of the cases discussed was the City of Claremore being sued for a second time by our law firm for violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Below is information about that case. Our firm’s first lawsuit against the City of Claremore, Claremore Police Department, and Claremore Police Chief Stan Brown has been discussed several times before on this blog.
One of the best things about the Oklahoma Open Records Act is that it has some teeth. It provides that a public body who violates the Act is liable for attorney fees when a citizen prevails against it in a lawsuit for violation. Ward Lee & Coats was awarded attorney fees for the 2011 lawsuit we filed against Claremore.
After it was all said and done, we were awarded over $41,000 in fees. That is a lot of money that the taxpayers of Claremore are going to have to pay because the City of Claremore decided it didn’t want to provide police dash cam recordings pursuant to the Open Records Act. Additionally, the City of Claremore presumably had to pay its attorneys to fight this case. Considering we filed the lawsuit in 2011 and it was still ongoing well into 2014, that is also a good chunk of change. We wondered: how much money did the City pay in an effort to hide public records? Well, thanks to the Open Records Act, citizens have every right to know exactly how much.
In January 2014 our firm sent Claremore an open records request asking for information on how much money the City paid its attorneys to fight for government secrecy. Our request was completely ignored.
In February 2014 our firm sent a second formal request to Claremore for this same information – as well as a request for information on Claremore’s agreement with its City Attorney Matt Ballard (who is currently running for District Attorney) and his Tulsa based law firm Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold. Mr. Ballard claimed that he would get the information to us but he neglected to do so.
So on March 24, 2014 Ward Lee & Coats filed another lawsuit against the City of Claremore for violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act. This litigation is currently ongoing and is on appeal after Judge Sheila Condren ruled in favor of the City of Claremore. (yes this was the same judge who ruled in their favor last time and was reversed by the Court of Civil Appeals). Stay tuned to this blog for more information about the case.
This was one of the two lawsuits that Claremore was involved in that was referenced in the recent DAs debate. When challenged on this issue, Matthew Ballard claimed they lost because all nine of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices as well as two Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals Judges were “activist judges.”
We discussed this in an earlier post on this blog.