The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 29, 2013

Move toward transparency

NORMAN — The nearly 40-year-old Oklahoma Open Meetings Act has weathered a number of challenges over the years. Court rulings and the opinions of state attorney generals have generally upheld the notion that transparency in government is a necessity for the republic to succeed.

Any attempts to water down that law — either through the courts or through legislation — should be met with concern. A state House bill filed by state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, would give public bodies far more latitude in being allowed to close meetings to the public and the press.

The bill allows school boards and other bodies to meet in secret to discuss self-evaluation procedures, strategy regarding school consolidation and knowledge that the board deemed potentially adverse to district finances. That last provision is most troubling.

A lawyer could interpret that to mean just about anything the district is involved in, since it all starts with the budget. A nickel change in lunch prices could trigger an executive session.

Rep. Virgin, in a Transcript interview last week, said the proposal is a work in progress and is subject to modification. We trust she and her colleagues will err on the side of government transparency.

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