Attorney General promotes open records to school officials

Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson urged school board members to tape record their executive sessions.

"There is a huge amount of public concern about what goes on in an executive session," Edmondson told the School Law Institute seminar Thursday. "A tape recording is the best evidence to show they (board members) are not violating any laws."

The conference was sponsored by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

Edmondson, the keynote speaker, urged the officials to err on the side of openness. He also emphasized laws governing executive sessions and how the attorney general's office has been the main force behind the state's open record laws.

"Open meetings and open records are always timely," said Keith Ballard, executive director of the school board association. "It's imperative they understand schools operate in the light of day."

Edmondson said social gatherings for board members pose tremendous potential for open meetings violations. He said officials should be careful when organizing trips and retreats.

He said retreats are fine as long as an agenda is posted in the home district and the retreat is not conducted too far from home.

Edmondson also said that if a majority of board members get into a van to go on a trip, "and on that trip they discuss school business, that trip is then an open meeting."

He also said executive sessions about legal matters must be attended by the school attorney, and the agenda must state specifically what will be discussed.

"You have to say if you're promoting or firing someone, and you must say who," Edmondson said. "The citizenry has no idea if you're going to give the superintendent a raise or fire a teacher."