Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act Amendments

Open Records:

The Open Records amendments to 51 O.S. § 24.A effective November 1, 2017 relates to inspection and reproductions of records which specify the requirement for permissible delay for certain requests. The amendments to this provision are found in 51 O.S. § 24.A (b)(6). There are two new provisions of this subsection to be aware of.

First, “A delay in providing access to records shall be limited solely to the time required for preparing the requested documents and the avoidance of excessive disruptions of the public body's essential functions.” This first addition specifies that delay of access to records shall be permissible in only two situations: (a) preparation time, and (b) if needed to avoid excessive disruption to the public body’s essential functions.

Second, “In no event may production of a current request for records be unreasonably delayed until after completion of a prior records request that will take substantially longer than the current request.” This second addition specifies a situation where delay is impermissible. The effect of the provision is that even where a public body has received a prior request, they may not delay access to a subsequent request, even where the prior request is substantially more cumbersome. While the statute prohibits only “unreasonable delay,” the prudent decision in this situation would be to begin gathering records upon the receipt of each request, and not to delay a subsequent request until the completion of a prior request.

Open Meetings:

The Open Meetings amendments to 25 O.S. § 311 also effective November 1, 2017 relates to public notice for public meetings by establishing provisions for certain notice on internet sites. While some of the changes to this section have only updated language, multiple portions of this provision have been renumbered due to substantial changes.

First, portions of the additional notice requirements of 25 O.S. § 311(A)(9), have been stricken. Under the old provision, public bodies only had one option for providing this notice (in addition to the requirements of 25 O.S. § 311(A)(1)). Under the modified provision public bodies now have two options for providing notice prior to regularly scheduled meetings, but the public body must choose at least one of the following methods:

a. by posting information that includes date, time, place and agenda for the meeting in prominent public view at the principal office of the public body or at the location of the meeting if no office exists, or

b. by posting on the public body's Internet website the date, time, place and agenda for the meeting in accordance with Section 3102 of Title 74 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Additionally, the public body shall offer and consistently maintain an email distribution system for distribution of such notice of a public meeting required by this subsection, and any person may request to be included without charge, and their request shall be accepted. The emailed notice of a public meeting required by this subsection shall include in the body of the email or as an attachment to the email the date, time, place and agenda for the meeting and it shall be sent no less than twenty-four (24) hours prior to the meeting. Additionally, the public body shall make the notice of a public meeting required by this subsection available to the public in the principal office of the public body or at the location of the meeting during normal business hours at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the meeting.

Second, 25 O.S. § 311(A)(10) has been renumbered as 25 O.S. § 311(A)(11), but the text of the provision remains the same. The new 25 O.S. § 311(A)(10) elaborates in further detail the requirements under the new changes to 25 O.S. § 311(A)(9).

The twenty-four (24) hours required in paragraph 9 of this subsection shall exclude Saturdays, Sundays and holidays legally declared by the State of Oklahoma. The posting or distribution of a notice of a public meeting as described in paragraph 9 of this subsection shall not preclude a public body from considering at its regularly scheduled meeting any new business. “New business,” as used herein, shall mean any matter not known about or which could not have been reasonably foreseen prior to the time of the posting.

Two components of this sub-section under the new amendment are noteworthy. First, weekends and holidays declared by the state will not count towards the twenty-four-hour notice required under 25 O.S. § 311(A)(9). Second, the notice requirements of 25 O.S. § 311(A)(9) do not affect the public bodies ability from considering “new business” during its regularly scheduled meetings, and “new business” is defined as “any matter now known about or which could not have been reasonably foreseen prior to the time of the posting.

Third, the former provisions 25 O.S. § 311(A)(11)-(12) have been renumbered as 25 O.S. § 311(A)(12)-(13) respectively. Additionally, 25 O.S. § 311(A)(12) (formerly 25 O.S. § 311(A)(10)) now provides for an alternative to the public posting requirements found in the prior provision.

In lieu of the public posting requirements of this paragraph, a public body may elect to follow the requirements found in subparagraph b of paragraph 9 of this subsection, provided that forty-eight-hour notice is required for special meetings and that the forty-eight-hour requirement shall exclude Saturdays, Sundays and holidays legally declared by the State of Oklahoma.

The information in this bulletin is intended solely for general informational purposes and should not be construed as or used as a substitute for legal advice or legal opinions with respect to specific situations since such advice requires an evaluation of precise factual circumstances by an attorney. OMAG does not represent or endorse any group, site or product that may be mentioned in this article. If you have questions, please contact Suzanne Paulson, OMAG General Counsel, at spaulson@omag.org or Matt Love, Associate General Counsel & Claims Director, at mlove@omag.org.

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