NORMAN — It’s not often that an elected official wants to make civil penalties an option against fellow elected officials who violate the state’s Open Records Act.
That’s part of some legislation being looked at by a state House interim study committee this year.
State Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, wants to clear up some gray areas in regard to the act, which makes public records available on request. Rep. Stiles is vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
The act gives local district attorneys the power to pursue criminal charges against elected officials, but that’s pretty rare. A change in the law would give citizens the right to pursue civil action against an official who refuses to release public records.
Currently, a litigant seeking records can pursue attorney’s fees if they are successful but can’t collect anything to punish the official who was trying to keep documents secret.
Mr. Stiles also wants more public records to be put online. Many counties don’t put court filings on the web. He suspects it may have more to do with keeping a copying revenue stream than privacy.
The act could use some updating, and we commend Mr. Stiles for bringing the issue forward. The law was written long before online records retrieval was in anyone’s vocabulary.