Take Shelter Oklahoma wants Governor to release files

Take Shelter Oklahoma, led by Oklahoma City attorney David
Slane, wants all communications between the governor’s office, the State
Chamber of Commerce, lawmakers and Attorney General Scott Pruitt in connection
with a public school storm shelter drive and the state’s franchise tax. The
deadline for receiving the communications is Friday.

“The governor has a practice of not releasing records,”
Slane said during a Capitol press conference Monday. “My goal is to avoid a
lawsuit. I don’t want to have to waste taxpayer dollars.”

Slane contends the open records request was made Nov. 7, but
Take Shelter Oklahoma did not receive a reply from Fallin’s office until Dec.

“They sent the letter saying they would comply to Tulsa and
I don’t even have an office there,” the attorney said. “It’s very calculated on
the governor’s part to not comply with the Open Records Act.”

Take Shelter Oklahoma, a nonprofit, is a movement that began
four months after the May 2013 tornadoes ripped through southwest Oklahoma City
and Moore, killing 47 people including seven children at Plaza Towers

The group proposed to use $500 million in state revenue
bonds to build storm shelters in every public school, then repay the bonds
using Oklahoma’s franchise tax as its revenue source. Spending the money
requires voter approval.

Slane claims the governor, Pruitt and influential members of
the State Chamber of Commerce have worked jointly to defeat the storm shelter
measure. Fallin has said publicly she believes storm shelters should be built
by local school districts, not the state.

In January 2013, the state chamber wrote in a position paper
that it opposes the franchise tax. State campaign finance records show members
of the state chamber, some of its executive leadership and political action
committees linked to chamber member companies made contributions to Pruitt’s
re-election bid last year. Pruitt is expected to seek another term as attorney

Upcoming ruling
Part of the movement included an initiative petition that
required 160,000 signatures from Oklahoma residents in order to place the
measure before state voters.

After the initiative petition was submitted to the Oklahoma
Secretary of State for approval on Sept. 18, Slane contends Pruitt changed the
ballot language to emphasize the state’s franchise tax in an attempt to defeat
the proposal. The nonprofit’s ballot language had focused on the critical need
for storm shelters.

However, Slane and Take Shelter Oklahoma claim Pruitt failed
to provide the secretary of state with a written notice of potential problems
with the original ballot language until Sept. 27 – two days after the legal

Since then, Take Shelter Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit with
the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking to restore its initial version of the ballot
title. The case is pending, but no hearing date has been set.

Although the group fell short obtaining the required number
of signatures by its Dec. 16 deadline, the petition could be resurrected
depending on the court’s decision, Slane said.

Tim Farley

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