|News Media Update||OKLAHOMA||Freedom of Information|
City officials arrested for open meeting violations
- Two public officials in Gore, Okla., were arrested and charged with violating that state’s Open Meeting Act.
April 1, 2004 — A pair of public officials in Gore, Okla., were arrested and charged earlier this month on two counts of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act.
Mayor Larry Pack and City Councilwoman Belinda Madding were arrested March 4. The charges stem from two incidents — on Sept. 5, 2003 and April 27, 2004 — in which Pack and Madding allegedly discussed a city employee’s impending termination with Councilman Steven Taylor.
Madding, who is the town’s clerk-treasurer, was also charged with one count of dual office- holding. The District Attorney’s office realized Madding was holding two public offices only when it began investigating the open meeting violations.
An open meeting violation is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. If convicted, Pack and Madding could face a $500 fine and up to one year in jail.
The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act requires that “all meetings of public bodies shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient to the public and shall be open to the public . . . all meetings of such public bodies . . . shall be preceded by advance public notice specifying the time and the place of each such meeting.”
According to Sequoyah County District Attorney Richard Gray, Pack and Madding were consulting with city council members outside of official meetings. The purpose of the consultations, Gray said, was to learn if council members would vote to fire a Gore Public Works Authority employee.
Gray said his office received numerous complaints from council members about the alleged violation. Pack and Madding were warned by the District Attorney’s office that they were violating the Open Meeting Act, but continued to conduct town business during unannounced meetings, Gray said.
When charges were filed March 4, Pack turned himself in to authorities and was later released from the Sequoyah County Jail after posting a $5,000 bond. Madding was arrested and released on a $7,500 bond.
“Most people, when they violate the Open Meeting Act, don’t know that they are breaking the law,” Gray said. “So we like to let them know so they will stop doing it. In this case, though, Pack and Madding continued to break the law.”
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press