OK WC Court Out Of Control

                               Oklahoma City, OK (CompNewsNetwork) - In light of the Workers Compensation Court's multi-year stonewalling of records requests, state Rep. Mike Reynolds today called for the dismissal of the court's administrator, Marcia Davis, and legal counsel, Tish Sommer.

"Court officials have made one excuse after another for delaying the release of records and it is clear they have no legal justification for their actions," said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. "In light of their brazen refusal to obey the law, I believe top officials at the court should step down. Additionally, I am greatly disappointed in the actions of the chief judge, Ken Eldridge."

State law clearly declares the right of a legislator to request information on prior workers' compensation claims "in the performance of his or her duties on behalf of a governmental entity or as may be allowed by law" and also states that the information must be provided "for claims information made by a public officer or by a public employee in the performance of his or her duties" even if the information is not otherwise subject to an open-records request from a member of the public.

On August 13, 2009, Reynolds requested, in writing, bulk data that is clearly not confidential from the Oklahoma Workers Compensation system.

Court officials have continually stonewalled since then. Eventually, they claimed they needed an official Attorney General's opinion before proceeding.

However, a letter issued by the Office of the Attorney General shows court officials are now even stonewalling the efforts of the Office of the Attorney General to respond to the court's own request, Reynolds noted.

In a letter dated March 5, 2010, Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader wrote the following to Workers' Compensation Court Administrator Davis:

"After initially reviewing your request, we contacted your office requesting information related to your files, their makeup and how they are accessed by parties who appear in person to either look at computerized or hard copies of files. That request was made within weeks of receiving the opinion request. We have made several inquiries over the months as to when we might expect the information needed to address your questions, but as of this date we have receiving none of the requested information."

As a result of the court's refusal to provide information, Leader wrote that the Office of the Attorney General has removed the court's opinion request from the active docket "and it will remain in that status until such time as we receive the information that was requested."

"The Office of the Attorney General serves as the legal counsel for state agencies, so it appears the Workers Compensation Court is now stonewalling its own lawyer," Reynolds said. "I have never seen an agency show greater contempt for transparency laws. In light of these potentially illegal actions, Court Administrator Marsha Davis and Special Counsel Tish Sommer should resign immediately.

"The law is very clear – the public has a right to see these documents on a case by case basis and the court must provide them to elected officials when requested, not days, months or years later. The public cannot have confidence in our workers comp system so long court officials actively work to shield the system from scrutiny."

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