CfA Sues Oklahoma Attorney General to Obtain Communications Between Scott Pruitt and Sen. James Inhofe about Coverup of Tar Creek Audit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 10, 2018
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Oklahoma County against Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for failing to release communications between former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and United States Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) about the work of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Trust (“LICRAT”) at the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt refused to prosecute the misconduct and self-dealing revealed by the state auditor’s investigation of Tar Creek. Both Pruitt and his successor, Mike Hunter, then tried to conceal the state auditor’s findings from the public with Hunter releasing it only once it was clear an Oklahoma court would require it. Now, it seems Hunter is hiding Pruitt’s communications with Sen. Inhofe about Tar Creek. Why is the state’s top law enforcement official continually willing to flout Oklahoma law to protect Pruitt? The public deserves to know the whole story behind the Tar Creek debacle.”
In 2004, the Oklahoma State Legislature set up LICRAT to undertake the buyout of homes that had children under seven living in them near the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma. In 2006, the LICRAT buyout program was expanded to include more residents after Sen. Inhofe “authored a provision redirecting $19 million” from money designated for the Tar Creek cleanup site to be instead used for LICRAT. The program was supposed to help residents relocate, but it was marred by allegations of corruption and favoritism.
The Oklahoma State Auditor investigated the program and found evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The State Auditor reported his findings to Pruitt in January 2014, but – without explanation – Pruitt rejected the findings and declined to bring criminal charges. Pruitt then denied the State Auditor’s request to publicly release the audit.
On December 6, 2017, Politico reported that Pruitt may have refused to release the audit to avoid embarrassing Sen. Inhofe, who promoted and endorsed the plan to establish the trust with federal money, a plan described as Sen. Inhofe’s “environmental legacy.” On December 11, 2017, CfA submitted an Oklahoma Open Records Act request to Attorney General Hunter for copies of communications between Pruitt’s office and Sen. Inhofe’s office regarding LICRAT and Tar Creek. The Attorney General’s office has refused to release any documents in response to CfA’s request.
Previously, on November 27, 2017, CfA filed an Open Records Act lawsuit to force Attorney General Hunter to release the audit and supporting documents. In response, AG Hunter filed a motion to dismiss the case. On February 23, Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish denied the AG’s motion. Realizing that the court would eventually force him to release the audit, on April 9, 2018, Hunter posted the audit and supporting documents on the AG’s website.
Stevens continued, “AG Hunter should abide by Oklahoma law and release Pruitt’s communications immediately. CfA will leave no stone unturned to ensure the public learns the whole story behind this sordid deal.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.