Attorney General Drew Edmondson was in Woodward on Thursday.

Edmondson was attending the fifth of 10 meetings he has planned across the state informing elected officials, education board members, law enforcement officers, and members of the press on the Oklahoma Open Meetings and Open Records Acts.

“We want everyone to understand and comply with the open meetings act and we appreciate everyone attending,” Edmondson said. “Our goal is to inform public officials about the best ways to stay within the law and keep the public informed.”

The meeting was mostly handled by Gay Tudor who is the assistant Attorney General and Chief of the General Council Section.

Tudor went over several new areas of the act as well as over some tricky issues dealing with the posting of agendas, minute keeping, and rules and laws when dealing with executive sessions.

“When in executive session minutes must be kept and are considered confidential. However, the minutes can be released to the public depending on the discretion of the governing board that held the meeting,” Tudor said.

Tudor also went over scheduled meetings and the difference between them and special and emergency meetings. She also discussed that any vote could not be made in executive session. All votes must be made in the open meeting and in front of the public – that being anyone attending the meeting.

Tudor spent most of the afternoon at the meeting that was held at the High Plains Technology Center discussing the what law says regarding executive sessions.

“Executive sessions may only be called to discuss the hiring, firing, appointment, promotion, discipline, or resignation of an employee. Also, to discuss employees and representatives of employee groups, the purchase or appraisal of real property, and a conference between the board and legal council,” Tudor said.

The punishment for not complying with the open meeting act is a tough one.

“For not following the rules a person or board could face a $500 fine and up to year in prison. It is really up to the District Attorney of the area to request the sentence for violating the rules of the act,” Tudor said.

Edmondson was present during the workshop and helped answer questions from the audience of around 45 people, some coming from as far as Goodwell and Guymon and even Felt and Boise City. Several counties, school districts and town councils were represented along with media members and people from various other boards.

Lehenbauer of Woodward City-County Emergency Management, Jennifer Miller from OEDA Workforce Development and C. J. Montgomery with the Chamber of Commerce.

Each attendee was given a newly printed updated and expanded text of the open meeting and open records acts which was printed by the Oklahoma Press Association. The OPA also had representation present as Mark Thomas, Director of the OPA was present handing out the books and making sure the meeting ran smoothly.

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