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Rule requires state agencies to keep contract recommendations secret

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A state Department of Central Services rule allows state agencies and commissions to secretly award state contracts -- even when it involves multi-million-dollar deals requiring a vote in public.

The rule says the winner of the contract "shall not" be announced in any public manner until Central Purchasing awards the contract. State purchasing director Betty Cairns says the rule is to make sure a state agency is financially able to fulfill the contract.

Critics say if the rule isn't a violation of the state's Open Meeting Law it's at least a violation of the spirit of the law.

The existence of the rule came to light when the state Lottery Commission voted to select "Vendor A" to produce tickets for the new state lottery. Lottery officials say they were advised by the attorney general's office they couldn't legally reveal the name of the company -- which was later identified as Scientific Games.

A spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson says attorneys don't determine the reason for a law and only advise agencies to follow the law.

Oklahoma Press Association director Mark Thomas says he hopes the incident prompts the governor and Legislature to change the rule.
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