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March 15, 2013

City memo may have violated open meetings law

NORMAN — A memorandum drafted by the city attorney on behalf of Mayor Cindy Rosenthal was hand delivered to members of the city council recently.

The memo — dated Feb. 19 — summarizes the history of decisions concerning the city manager’s contract and compensation and summarizes a consensus of the council regarding the city manager’s contract. It presented new information regarding union and non-union compensation and closes with a request from the mayor for input and direction from other council members.

Some open government observers say that request from the mayor appears to be a violation of the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act.

Council member Tom Kovach alerted The Transcript to the existence of the memo earlier this week, commenting that it was Sunshine Week and he believes the mayor’s memo violates open meetings law. Rosenthal disagrees.

“My sole motive in consulting with the city attorney is to get it right. He has to draft the contract, obviously, so I have to work closely with him,” Rosenthal said.

The Transcript asked for a copy of the memo and Rosenthal referred the matter to the city attorney who refused all requests. The Transcript obtained a copy of the memo from a source who does not believe it falls into the category of privileged information.

The memo is addressed from Rosenthal to council members.

“The consensus of the council was to move forward ...” Rosenthal writes in the memo.

“They cannot vote in executive session,” said Dr. Joey Senat, associate a professor at the OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications. “So how did they reach a consensus? They avoided having a roll call vote, but they still voted.”

“I was asked to put on paper what did it mean to follow the same union and non-union pay raises,” Rosenthal said. “And I consulted with the city attorney to help draft that, but no final decision was made, no votes were cast.”

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