An Oklahoma-based journalist is suing the state’s governor and attorney general over delays to multiple open records requests, including some filed more than a year ago.
In preparation for a book on Indigenous rights, Rebeca Nagle requested copies of emails, letters, documents and calendars from the offices of Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor. The first request was made on Oct. 22, 2021. None have been fulfilled.
Stitt and O’Connor “have failed to provide prompt, reasonable access to records responsive to Nagle’s three requests,” states a lawsuit filed this month in Oklahoma County district court.
Stitt and O’Connor declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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“We believe that the government in this instance has long blown past their time to fairly respond,” said Kathryn Gardner, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, which is representing Nagle.
“This information is needed now so Oklahomans and others have information about the steps that the governor and various public officials are taking in the wake of McGirt and other related cases.”
Nagle’s work often focuses on tribal sovereignty, including her popular podcast, The Land.
Nagle is currently working on a book called “Indian Territory,” which further explores the “complex legal and political issues pertaining to Native American land and Indigenous rights,” according to her lawsuit.
Courts have ruled against agencies for delayed responses
Stitt has regularly criticized the US Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the 2020 decision that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished.
That ruling was later extended to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Quapaw and Seminole reservations.
Nagle’s records requests included a search for emails related to McGirt and other cases involving Ingenious rights. She is also seeking emails with related search terms and those that reference specific tribes.
The Oklahoma Open Records Act allows the public to request most government requests and requires agencies to provide “prompt, reasonable access.”
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The executive branch is included in the act, although executive privileges can be claimed in some cases.
Courts have ruled against state agencies for withholding records, including last year when an Oklahoma County district judge said former Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety violated the Open Records Act by withholding records related to a 2014 execution.
While the judges did not say how quickly an agency had to honor a record request, they criticized the delay of more than 17 months.
Oklahoma journalists have often complained about records of delays with the governor’s office. The Oklahoman currently has an outstanding records request with the governor’s office that is more than a year old.