AG, OPA hosts free open meetings, records seminar

By Rick Carpenter -

If you’re a public official, the custodian of official documents or just interested in open meetings and records, you should attend a free seminar from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Technology Center, 711 W. Tamarack Road.

The Oklahoma Press Association and Attorney General Mike Hunter are jointly hosting the presentation to better educate the public on open meetings and open records. The OPA and the attorney general hosts the meetings every two years to update the public on changes in the law. The one in Altus is the final one this year.

Mark Thomas, executive director of the OPA, said people who attend the meetings are often public servants who really want to know the right way to do things. “Unfortunately, it’s kind of like church, the people who need to be there often aren’t,” he said.

The Oklahoma Open Meetings Act dictates how public bodies — such as school boards, city councils and county commissions — notify the public about upcoming meetings and how those meetings should be conducted, including when public bodies can go into executive sessions behind closed doors to the public. It also outlines what can be discussed in those closed-door meetings.

Similarly, the Oklahoma Open Records Act dictates what records must be open to the public, how people can access them and how much government bodies can charge for photocopying such records.

As part of the seminar, those who attend will receive a free copy of the 20th edition of Oklahoma Open Meeting and Open Records Book, a $20 value.

Thomas said the seminar will be divided into two parts, one on open meetings and the other on open records. At the end of each presentation, participants will be allowed to ask specific questions concerning the acts.

Hunter said the meetings will highlight the latest changes in the laws governing the acts as well as give the basics of each act.

“Transparency laws promote accountability and are some of the most important laws we have,” Hunter said in a prepared statement.

The seminars are free, open to anyone interested and some groups receive continuing education credits including attorneys and those certified through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET.

You do not need to pre-register. For more information, call the Oklahoma Press Association at 405-499-0040.

By Rick Carpenter

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