UCO Student Congress Continues to Break Open Meeting Act
The UCO Student Congress has continued to violate a section of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act by placing financial resolution on their agenda late. The Congressional Leadership of Chair Caleb Shaw, Secretary Kalina Popova and Vice Chair Stockton Duvall appear at the Monday, April 10, 2017 meeting. (Ryan Naeve, The Vista).
Written by: Kateleigh Mills, editor-in-chief and Megan Prather, managing editor
Another piece of legislation has been voided after the UCO Student Congress continued to violate the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act at their meeting last Monday.
At the UCO Congress meeting, the legislature voted on and passed unanimously CFR16-209, a financial resolution which appropriated money as “Sponsorship and Annual Funding” for the Human Resource Management Society.
This financial resolution was not placed on the docket in compliance with OMA, that requires any legislation to be considered during a regularly scheduled meeting to have a 24 hour advance notice, excluding weekends.
Because the UCO Student Congress meets every Monday at 1 p.m. in the Nigh University Center in the Will Rogers Room, their legislation and agendas need to be posted by “the preceding Friday” at 1 p.m.
This financial resolution, CFR16-209, was not added to the docket until the Saturday before the meeting, April 8, at 2:08 a.m., and therefore in violation of OMA that states it should be voided.
“I felt like that was an adequate amount of time,” Chair Caleb Shaw said.
According the the UCO Student Congress Bylaws, under the “Leadership” chapter, the Chair of the UCO Student Congress “shall ensure that the UCO Student Congress is in full compliance with the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act and Oklahoma Open Records Act at all times.”
This section can be accessed online at OrgSync on the UCOSA page or by visiting the UCOSA Office, located on the first floor of the Nigh University Center to read.
UCO Student Congress Senator, Parliamentarian and Floor Leader, Caleb Power voided CFR16-209 last Thursday due to it being passed illegally.
A screenshot of the UCO Student Congress docket on April 10, 2017 on OrgSync found that financial resolution, CFR16-209, was added late to the agenda for the UCO Student Congress meeting on Monday, April 10, according to the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. (Kateleigh Mills/The Vista).
In an E-mail sent to Shaw, Power stated:
“I have to void CFR16-209 because of it’s lack of compliance with OMA; I would encourage you to put it on the agenda (maybe on a consent agenda) for the upcoming meeting before the Friday that precedes it at 1:00 PM. I know that it seems that 48 hours in advance like you did was adequate–and like I said earlier, if OMA didn’t exist, you’d be right–but right now we need to be concerned with the bare minimum of the written law.”
Anybody can void a piece of legislation if it is found to be neglectful of OMA.
In order to have passed this legislation legally, it would have had to be placed on the docket the preceding Friday by 1 p.m., or be placed on the docket for the following week.
Power said that he spoke to the Congressional Leadership – comprised of Secretary Kalina Popova, Vice Chair Stockton Duvall and Chair Caleb Shaw – privately on multiple occasions for breaking this section of OMA. The violation was also brought to further attention at the Congress meeting on April 3rd.
“It would be kind of ludicrous for me to say that I wasn’t fully aware that we’re fully doing it (violating OMA),” Shaw said. “I’ve heard it before. Caleb Power talked to me about this before, so this is something that I definitely know about.”
Two members of leadership, Shaw and Duvall, said the need to get money to the student organizations faster was the excuse for these violations.
“We’re doing it for the benefit of the students,” Shaw said.
“You are serving the students when you follow Open Meeting Act. It’s enacted for the publics benefit so they can be informed of what you’re doing,” Joey Senat, associate professor at Oklahoma State University and author of Mass Communications Law in Oklahoma, said.
The purpose of OMA is to provide transparency. It also allows the student body to know what is being done with the fees they pay every semester. Placing legislation on the docket in accordance with OMA gives students the ability to know what is being voted on and when so they can voice concerns, since the UCOSA is funded through student activity fees.
“The Open Meeting Act is not optional, it’s not based off your convenience,” Senat said “It’s a crime to violate the Open Meeting Act.”
According to section 314 in OMA, any person or persons that are found in violation “of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one (1) year or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
Senat said that the next steps to take if a group is continuing to violate OMA are to either file a complaint to the police department or contact the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office. There is also the possibility of a lawsuit against those found in willful violation of the law.
“Everyone is now entitled to file a lawsuit over an Open Meeting Act violation,” Senat said.