Delaware County District Judge Barry Denney has ruled that the Picher Housing Authority has violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
According to the judge's ruling, housing authority director John Sparkman failed to respond to a request by Gold Fields Mining for records pertaining to his employment contracts with the housing authority and his “sideline” employment as a consultant with Speer Law Firm and Seiger Wiess Law Firm.
According to the ruling, Sparkman also violated the Open Records Act by providing an inadequate response to the plaintiff's final request.
The housing authority was ordered to produce all records responsive to Gold Field Mining within 20 days, as well as an affidavit by the records custodian that a reasonable search for the documents had been conducted.
The mining company is seeking records related to Sparkman's contractual employment by Speer Law Firm, which employed him as a consultant.
According to court records, Sparkman was hired to create a video as evidence in federal cases against mining companies for health problems incurred by numerous Picher families.
Attorneys for the families have filed lawsuits against the mining companies for contamination within the Tar Creek Superfund site.
Sparkman is also slated to testify in the federal case.
Gold Field Mining requested the records in order to determine if Sparkman is allowed to “moonlight” while being under contract as the housing authority's director.
Sparkman's attorney contends that his contract with Speer Law Firm is personal and does not fall under the Open Records Act guidelines.
Gold Fields argued that if the contract with Speer Law Firm was presented to the housing authority board of directors, it became a matter of public record.
Denney stated in his ruling that “record” does not mean “non-governmental personal effects.”
“Mr. Sparkman's affidavit does not say that these documents are personal,” Denney said. “A summary judgement motion must be decided on the record which is actually presented, not on a record which is potentially possible.”
Denney said the court must assume that the defendant's attorneys know what evidence must be presented to get past a summary judgement motion on this issue.
“They have not done so,” Denney said.
In addition to ordering the release of the requested records, Denney also ordered the housing authority to pay attorney fees incurred by Gold Fields Mining from the date of the first record's request.