Production company sues tourism department

Tuesday, November 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The former producer of the ``Discover Oklahoma'' television program sued the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department Tuesday for canceling the company's contract.

Maraka Video Productions and its owners, Joel and Donna Manning of Oklahoma City, accused the department and Director Jane Jayroe of breach of contract in the lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court.

``Maraka performed its obligations under the contract and made the program a success,'' said Maraka's attorney, Timila S. Rother. ``We just think it was an improper termination without foundation.''

The program went off the air for a few weeks after Maraka's $400,000 contract was canceled in May, tourism officials said. The program has since resumed production and is broadcast by television stations across the state, Jayroe said.

``We made the best decision for tourism and for the use of taxpayer dollars,'' she said.

The program, first aired in April 1991, is now being produced by a video unit within the Tourism Department.

``I'm sorry that this lawsuit has been filed. I'm confident about the eventual outcome being in our favor,'' Jayroe said.

``Discover Oklahoma'' is a half-hour, commercially broadcast program that promotes tourism destinations in the state. It is hosted by former Miss America Shawntel Smith and Jim Burratti, assistant director of the Tourism Department's Travel and Tourism Division.

Maraka had been involved with the program as a subcontractor since the program went on the air and received the contract to produce the show in January 2000, officials said. Maraka's contract was terminated when tourism officials exercised a 30-day cancellation notice.

Rother said the department fulfilled just 1 1/2 years of a 4 1/2-year obligation under the contract.

``The department had no proper basis on which to terminate the contract,'' Rother said. The lawsuit seeks in excess of $10,000 in damages.