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Investigation of meeting violation by reporter halted

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Investigation of meeting violation by reporter halted

  • Officials withdrew their call for a criminal investigation into a Tulsa reporter who left a running tape recorder in a closed county government executive session.

Aug. 6, 2004 — County officials in Tulsa, Okla., rescinded their request to investigate a Tulsa World reporter who left a running tape recorder behind in a closed executive session last week.

At a Tulsa County Commission meeting July 25, reporter Susan Hylton left behind the tape recorder she had been using during the open portion of the meeting. When commissioners found the recorder still recording 15 to 20 minutes into the closed session, they sent it to the sheriff’s office, said Joe Worley, executive editor of the World .

Commissioner Bob Dick and County Assessor Ken Yazel immediately asked for an investigation into a possible violation of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act. Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said the investigation was dropped July 29, at the request of Dick.

“I think enough people came forward and said they saw the reporter place the recorder there during the meeting and she must have just forgotten it,” Glanz said.

Hylton, a staff reporter, has covered Tulsa County government for the World for several years, Worley said. He called her reporting style “pretty aggressive.”

“They should have figured out it was not anything major,” Worley said. “I find it strange that Commissioner Dick would result to such tactics — he’s a former police chief and should have known it wasn’t anything major.

“Sometimes elected officials don’t always see eye-to-eye with the reporters,” he added. “This was an attempt to intimidate and hurt the reporter and the Tulsa World .”

The Tulsa County Commission meetings are covered by the open meetings act, which allows for closed sessions when topics such as litigation or personnel are being discussed. The meeting’s agenda for the closed portion listed discussion of litigation involving Yazel’s office.

Neither Dick nor Yazel could be reached for comment.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office had asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to open the case, said bureau spokesperson Jessica Brown. Days later, the sheriff’s office rescinded the request. OSBI investigations must be requested by a law enforcement agency, Brown said.

Attorneys for the World and the county’s Board of Commissioners met this week and erased the 20 minutes of the taped executive session. They then returned the recorder to Hylton, Worley said.

Hylton had previously left behind a tape recorder at an executive session about a year ago, but the commissioners noticed it and turned it off prior to their discussion, according to a World article.

(Media Counsel: Schaad Titus, Titus Hillis & Reynolds, Tulsa) CZ


© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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