Court rules Norman violated FOIA when approving budget

Mike Seals - April 13, 2021 11:20 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The city of Norman violated the state’s Open Meeting Act when it approved a budget that cut the police budget by $865,000, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court upheld a circuit judge’s December ruling that a required notice for the June 16 meeting was worded deceptively. The notice said the council would consider adopting the city’s proposed operating and capital budgets, but it did not say an amendment to slash the police budget by 3.6% would be discussed.

“We find that the language used in the agenda was deceptively vague and likely to mislead regarding the meeting and therefore was a willful violation of the (Open Meetings) Act,” according to the opinion by Chief Justice Richard Darby.

The ruling also found that the city’s budget is invalid.

“We are reviewing it and will comply with the Supreme Court ruling,” city spokesperson Annahlyse Meyer said.

The cut came in the midst of calls to “defund the police” after the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The money was to be used for community outreach programs.

“These budget amendments reflect an intentional effort to tackle systemic racism in our community and to be proactive as opposed to reactive in meeting the social service needs of our residents,” Mayor Breea Clark said at the time.

The vote to cut the police budget also led to a failed petition effort to recall Clark and four members of the eight-person City Council.

 

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