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Stecklein v. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Post categories

  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: CV-2024-1369

Court: Oklahoma County District Court

Client: Janelle Stecklein

Lawsuit Filed: May 16, 2024

Background: In December 2023, Oklahoma Voice Editor Janelle Stecklein submitted a public records request to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission seeking records related to the resignation of the former director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Stecklein specifically asked for a copy of the severance agreement that the commission had approved during a meeting on Dec. 6, 2023, as well as records detailing the amount of money the former director was to be paid under the agreement.

The ODWC denied the journalist’s request, claiming that the records were exempt from disclosure under a section of the Oklahoma Open Records Act that protects records that relate to “internal personnel investigations.” A month later, the ODWC revealed in a press release that it had paid the former director nearly $170,000 under the terms of the severance package, but it did not release the agreement

An attorney from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted a letter to the ODWC on Stecklein’s behalf urging the department to reconsider its decision to withhold the agreement. The ODWC did not respond to the letter.

On behalf of Stecklein, a Reporters Committee attorney filed a lawsuit against the ODWC and the OWCC, alleging that they violated Oklahoma’s public records law by failing to produce documents responsive to the journalist’s request. Among other things, the lawsuit asks the Oklahoma County District Court to declare that the severance agreement is an open record under the ORA and to order the ODWC and OWCC to immediately disclose it.


2024-05-16: Petition for relief for violations of the Oklahoma Open Records Act

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