The high price of ethics

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This post is a reminder to me to write a check to the ethics commission and get it mailed.

When the Oklahoma Ethics Commission called me back about my request for scans of the Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner race contributions and expenditures reports, I was told to mail a check for $1 for each page requested, and when they received the check, they would mail me the copies. I pointed out to Merlyn Rios, the clerk who handles these requests, that the purpose of filing these forms was to inform the public of the contributors to a candidate and to do so early enough to provide the media and the voters time to analyze the list and take it into consideration come election day. Waiting on the US Mail would slow the process down considerably and might mean voters wouldn't get the information in time to make use of it.

I asked to speak to Merlyn's boss about a waiver of fees or e-mailing the information to me. She transferred me to Patti Bryant. Patti agreed to authorize Merlyn to fax the information to me on the promise that I would mail a check. The fact that I am in media did not entitle me to a fee waiver. The fee is set by the Ethics Commission.

Given the history of county courthouse corruption in Oklahoma, I understand why the ethics law doesn't make a county official the repository of ethics filings, although it would be easier for voters to access the information if they could see it at the county election board.

But it seems to me that the purpose of the law is defeated by the way the commission is handling these documents. They should simply scan these documents upon receipt and post the resulting PDF on their website. Better yet, they should include county candidates in the same searchable database used for state candidates. I could see charging a fee for dredging out and copying old filings, but not for filings in current races.

So far, BatesLine is the only Tulsa media outlet to publish the contributions and expenditures reports for the District 2 County Commission Republican primary. (Here is Sally Bell's report and my analysis. Here is Randi Miller's report and my analysis. Tomorrow I should be able to scan and post Karen Keith's report.) The daily paper doesn't seem interested, and the report filing deadline comes too late for Urban Tulsa Weekly's last issue before the election.

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XonOFF said:

This is a BIG problem in this State, County and City.

CURRENT information shouldn't cost anything. There should be requirements to post it all to a website for general and free access.

Try to get election results sometime. At least, anything more than the City-level totals published in their routine 'summary' reports.

What's it take to change how the Election Board handles their information? The State Legislature, I suppose. Sounds like Terrill-time.

Journo said:

I would think that if the legislature were to fund the Ethics Commission appropriately, they could hire another data-entry person to handle county documents.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 25, 2008 6:03 AM.

Dana Murphy for Corporation Commission was the previous entry in this blog.

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