In January’s newsletter article, I discussed legal proceedings the City of Norman faced over a City Council agenda item alleged to have violated the Open Meetings Act. At issue was the following item from the City Council’s June 16, 2020, special meeting:
The vote taken under this agenda item resulted in a budget cut of $865,000 to the Norman Police Department. Afterward, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sued the City of Norman alleging, among other things, a violation of the Act. The FOP argued that there was not sufficient notice provided on the agenda for the public to know that a potential defunding could occur.
Cleveland County District Court Judge Thomas Baldwin agreed with the FOP, finding that an individual reading the agenda language in question would not have understood that the vote could result in a modification, reallocation or defunding of the police department’s budget. As a result, the Council’s action was invalidated.
The City of Norman appealed the judgment, and the matter was taken up by the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. In mid-April, the Court unanimously upheld Judge Baldwin’s ruling, concluding that:
This matter, while not a school issue, is a good example of why it’s critical for public boards to use the utmost care when crafting meeting agendas. As seen time and again with public bodies, including school boards, agendas are subject to scrutiny and legal action, perhaps especially so when the business being transacted is controversial.