OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma attorney general says a private organization of county sheriffs must make its meetings and certain records open to the public.
Attorney General Mike Hunter said last week that the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association must abide by state openness laws because it’s partially supported by public funds, The Oklahoman reported .
The association receives funds from the Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan, which allows police to seize a driver’s license plate if the driver doesn’t have proof of insurance. Drivers are charged a $125 fee in order to get the license plate back and the association receives $10 from each fee for administering the plan.
“Accordingly, it meets the definition of ‘public body’ and is therefore subject to both the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act and the Oklahoma Open Records Act,” Hunter said.
The association must comply with the Open Meeting Act when a majority of its members gather to conduct association business, Hunter said. Any records regarding “the transaction of public business, the expenditure of public funds or the administering of public property” must be made public as well.
The association’s annual reports on revenue and expenses to the IRS were the only records previously available to the public.
Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, requested the attorney general’s opinion after hearing concerns about the association from journalists.
The decision comes at a time when the association is being sued for its involvement in a program that charges criminals an additional 30 percent if their overdue fines are turned over to a collection agency. The lawsuit alleges that the program extorts poor offenders who already have a difficult time making payments while on probation.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com