Open records lawsuit filed against OU Foundation over arena
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The University of Oklahoma’s former chief legal counsel has filed an Open Records Act lawsuit against the nonprofit that handles donations to the school.
Fred Gipson filed the lawsuit last week in Cleveland County District Court after the OU Foundation denied his request for emails, documents and financial records related to the foundation’s proposed arena and entertainment district. City Council members Joe Carter Jr. and Alexandra Scott added their names Monday as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Gipson requested the records late last month on behalf of 70 Norman residents who he said have concerns about the proposed University North Park development slated for an August vote.
“They are stonewalling me,” said Gipson, a Democrat currently running for the 4th Congressional District seat. “I just want to know where they’ve been spending the money.”
Carter and Scott have both campaigned heavily against the arena proposal. Carter said he feels Gipson’s request is legitimate and in the name of transparency.
The foundation declined to comment on the lawsuit but said in its records request denial that it isn’t subject to the state’s Open Records Act because it’s independent from the public university.
“Because the foundation is not a public body, internal documents and information maintained by the foundation are not public records,” Foundation President Guy Patton wrote May 30. “The foundation exists to benefit the university, but in the final analysis, the foundation is answerable only to its donors — not to the university (or the general public).”
Gipson said the foundation should be considered a public body because it only exists to serve a public entity.
“I don’t think the foundation and the university can make the argument that they’re totally separate,” he said. “They have mixed assets and personnel.”
Gipson, 82, was the university’s top attorney from 1988 to 1998.