- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma newspaper and a nursing home reform group sued Gov. Mary Fallin’s office on Monday, claiming the governor is taking too long to respond to requests for documents under the state’s Open Records Act.

The Oklahoma Observer newspaper and the advocacy group A Perfect Cause filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court, alleging they have yet to receive copies of documents they requested in 2014.

Under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, public bodies such as the governor’s office are required to provide “prompt, reasonable” access to records.

“The Oklahoma Open Records Act is a powerful tool for the press, nonprofits, and for that matter any private citizen, and unfortunately Gov. Fallin has a problem complying with that law,” said Brady Henderson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which is representing the plaintiffs.

A Perfect Cause submitted a request in May 2014 for records related to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, while the Oklahoma Observer requested documents in July 2014 related to the execution of two inmates in 2012 and 2013.

“The denial of access to records for a period in excess of 17 months and 15 months, respectively, is neither prompt nor reasonable,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks a judge to order the immediate release of all records related to their respective requests, as well as attorney fees.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz says the governor’s office has a first-come, first-served policy related to requests for records, and that the delays are simply a matter of not having enough manpower to comply with all of the requests.

“Since 2012, our office has turned over 357,000 pages of documents in response to open records requests,” Weintz said. “We believe that’s not only more than every other Oklahoma governor, but every other Oklahoma governor combined.”

Weintz said the governor’s office takes compliance with the Open Records Act seriously and is complying with both the spirit and letter of the law.

Fallin’s office also is the target of a separate lawsuit filed by former Tulsa World reporter Ziva Branstetter and the newspaper’s parent company, BH Media Group, over the release of documents related to Clayton Lockett’s botched execution in April 2014. That lawsuit is pending in Oklahoma County District Court.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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