CfA Sues Oklahoma Officials for Failing to Release Documents Withheld by Scott Pruitt
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 27, 2017
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Oklahoma County against Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones for failing to release copies of audits and documents related to corruption allegations associated with the management of the Tar Creek Reclamation site in the state.
“While he was serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declined to bring criminal charges in response to an audit that found evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the Tar Creek Reclamation site,” said CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens. “Why did he refuse to bring charges? We don’t know because the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has repeatedly refused to release documents related to this audit.”
On April 21, 2011, then-AG Pruitt sent a letter to State Auditor Jones requesting that the Auditor’s Office investigate “suspected unlawful contracting practices of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Trust (LICRAT), a Public Trust and Agency of the State of Oklahoma.” LICRAT was created to oversee the buyout and demolition of vacant homes near Tar Creek, a 40-square mile area in northeast Oklahoma contaminated by decades of lead and zinc mining. Concerns about unlawful contracting practices with LICRAT had been brought to the AG’s attention by then-U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.
While conducting the audit, the State Auditor’s office found evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the site. Jones reported his findings to Pruitt, but – without explanation – Pruitt rejected the findings and declined to bring criminal charges.
In 2015, the auditor’s office asked Pruitt to authorize the release of the LICRAT audit pursuant to the Oklahoma Open Records Act (ORA). Pruitt denied the request stating, “our office is concerned about publication of unsubstantiated criminal allegations against private citizens.” The auditor’s office disputed Mr. Pruitt’s rationale, stating that they were not aware of “any unsubstantiated claims” and that “the individuals named in the report are members of a public trust or a contractor whose services were retained as part of this substantive project.”
On November 9, 2017, CfA made an ORA request of the auditor’s office for the records, following the unsuccessful efforts of E&E News to obtain them. In response, the auditor explained that he wanted to release the records, but had been instructed not to do so by the AG’s office. CfA filed a request for the records directly with the AG’s office, which denied the request.
Mr. Stevens continued, “Scott Pruitt decided not to prosecute alleged corruption and has been trying to hide the reasons for this questionable decision from the public ever since. Oklahoma citizens deserve to know what the government is so intent to hide.”
UPDATE: On April 30, 2018, the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office released documents in response to CfA’s lawsuit.
Campaign for Accountability is a 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.