OSBI asked to look into fired officers' complaints about obtaining documents

Monday, May 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OWASSO, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa County prosecutors have asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into complaints by two fired Owasso police officers that city officials overcharged them for reports.

Burl Cox and Mike Denton say city officials charged them a $25 fee for the 30 minutes it took to search for the records.

David Robertson, an assistant district attorney, said he asked the OSBI to look at the complaints.

Denton said he and Cox began requesting the police reports after they were fired last year. They wanted the reports to prove they had followed proper procedure.

Cox, 36, was a sergeant and Denton, 35, was a corporal when they allegedly used excessive force in arresting a man accused of possessing illegal drugs and guns.

A federal arbitrator ruled the two should not have been dismissed and ordered them reinstated. The city is appealing the ruling.

Denton said he and Cox paid $3 per report _ a standard police department policy _ regardless of the number of pages.

The men requested as many as 15 reports, each an average of two to three pages, Denton said.

Last fall, Cox questioned the cost after he was charged a $25 search fee for two reports.

He said the records clerk told him that the new policy was to charge $50 an hour for pulling and copying reports. Cox paid the $25, then took the issue to the district attorney's office.

Cox and Denton allege the policy change was devised to discourage them from collecting information.

According to the Open Records Act, ``a public body may charge a fee only for recovery of the reasonable, direct costs of document copying or mechanical reproduction.''

The law emphasizes that ``in no instance shall said document exceed 25 cents per page.''

The law also states that ``the fees shall not be used for the purpose of discouraging requests for information or as obstacles to disclosure of requested information.''

Records Clerk Sue Blevins was not on the job when Cox was charged the fee.

She said her office does charge a records search fee of up to $50 per hour.