A request to the City of McAlester for information regarding” Project Spider” rendered emails containing blacked-out paragraphs, leading to further possible violations of state laws pertaining to the State of Oklahoma Open meeting act and Open Record Act.
McAlester City Council members have met twice to discuss a proposed expansion of an existing McAlester business — code named, “Project Spider.”
A code name which could be in violation of the Oklahoma State Law.
In an effort to uncover what Project Spider was about McAlester News Capital requested records regarding the project by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
Several emails were received from the city. Some had large sections blacked out. No legal reason was given for the redaction on the request.
However McAlester City Attorney Joe Irvin said he redacted the sections in the email because the information didn’t pertain to the request.
A McAlester News investigation has revealed some information about the secret Project Spider. The code name Project Spider is being used for a proposed existing business expansion at Steven Taylor Industrial Park, presented to the city by Shari Cooper director of MPower, a city funded economic development company.
In a June 29 email Cooper to the McAlester City Council and City Manager Pete Stasiak, Cooper asks to meet in executive session with the council to discuss an existing business expansion proposal regarding land at Steven Taylor Industrial Park.
“We have a business that is in expansion mode ... and I would prefer to present this proposal to city council in Executive Session for their consideration. It involves land negotiation and acquisition, so I believe the Open meetings state law allows for this.”
On June 30 the name Project Spider is given to the project in an email from McAlester City Mayor Steve Harrison.
“.. I assume that a reference to “Project Spider “will satisfy the (Open meeting law), Harrison said.
The law he is referring to is Title 25 Oklahoma Statute Sec. 311B (2)b, according to the email.
“All agendas required pursuant to the provisions of this section shall identify all items of business to be transacted by a public body at a meeting, including ... If a public body proposes to conduct an executive session, the agenda shall identify the items of business and purposes of the executive session.”
However, the matters discussed in executive sessions are the business of the public, according to previous Oklahoma Attorney General.
“Executive sessions are not permitted under the law because the matters to be taken up are in the private domain of public officials” said former Attorney General Jan Eric Cartright.
“Such matters are the business of the public.”
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Contact Jeanne LeFlore at email@example.com.