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March 3, 2014

Healthcare document release may be delayed

NORMAN — Thirty-one documents related to the Affordable Care Act that Gov. Mary Fallin has refused to release and that are the subject of a lawsuit against her will be archived and made available to the public after Fallin leaves office, her spokesman said.

Fallin’s office, however, has not yet decided whether to stipulate that release of the archived records be delayed for a certain period after her term ends.

“The law states that those documents will be archived and will eventually be open to the public to view, either immediately or with some delay. They will not be destroyed,” Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, told Oklahoma Watch in an email.

The documents could be released sooner if Fallin loses a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and a media website seeking the records, but it’s not clear when that case will be resolved.

If Fallin were to delay the archives release, she would be the first governor to set such a condition that state archivists are aware of, according to the Oklahoma Archives and Records Management Divisions, which keep records of historical importance.

Jan Davis, administrative archivist, said she knew of no similar restrictions set by previous governors; papers from former governors usually are made public as soon as they are processed.

Fallin is running for reelection this year, which means her office would turn over correspondence and other records to the State Archives as early as January 2015 if she loses, or as late as January 2019 if she wins. Her office already has archived some documents, such as event invitations, that aren’t needed for administrative purposes, Davis said.

In March 2013, in response to requests from various news media, Fallin’s office released more than 50,000 records, mainly emails, related to her decisions not to create a state health-care exchange or expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. She withheld 31 records totaling 100 pages, asserting an exemption, “executive privilege,” that does not appear in the state’s Open Records Act. Officials in Fallin’s office said the records involved attorney-client communications and private deliberations on public-policy decisions.

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