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Reporter Numbers:
Unpublished
Court:
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, Division II
Case Docket Number:
11816
Date Decided:
March 18, 2021
Opinion By:
THORNBRUGH, J.
Votes:
CONCUR: WISEMAN, PJ., BARNES, J.
County:
Tulsa
District Court Case No.:
CV-2016-998
Trial Court Judge:
Douglas E. Drummond
Appellant Lawyer(s):
Pro Se
Appellees Lawyer(s):
PATRICK G. COLVIN, THOMAS JOT HARTLEY, JAMES E. WEGER
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Wilkins v. Tulsa Development Authority (2021)

Addresses mootness and standing of OMA lawsuits. Wording indicates a bias towards government and general distaste for OMA plaintiffs. NOTE: This is an unpublished case and seems inconsistent with published Rabin v. Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust, 2013 OK CIV APP 72, 308 P.3d 191.

NOT FOR OFFICIAL PUBLICATION

IN THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA

DIVISION II

Case No. 118,516

CECILIA WILKINS and                            

WILLIAM WILKINS,                                                                                                      

                  Plaintiffs/Appellants,                                                                    

and                                                                                          

NOVUS HOMES LLC and                         

W3 DEVELOPMENT,                                                                    

                  Plaintiffs,                                

Vs.                                                                                                                          

THE TULSA DEVELOPMENT                 

AUTHORITY,                                                                                 

                  Defendant/Appellee.                     

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF

TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA

 

HONORABLE DOUGLAS E. DRUMMOND, TRIAL JUDGE

 

AFFIRMED

 

Cecilia Wilkins,

Tulsa, Oklahoma                                                         Pro Se

 

William Wilkins

Sand Springs, Oklahoma                                              Pro Se

 

Patrick G. Colvin

James E. Weger

JONES, GOTCHER & BOGAN, P.C.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

and

Thomas Jot Hartley                                                               For the Defendant/Appellee

THE HARTLEY LAW FIRM, PLLC                                      Tulsa Development Authority

Vinita, Oklahoma

 

OPINION BY P. THOMAS THORNBRUGH, JUDGE:

Plaintiffs Cecilia and William Wilkins, Novus Homes LLC., and W3

Development LLC, appeal a decision of the district court finding their Open Meetings Act (OMA) suit against the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) moot.

On review, we find that any relief in the form of an injunction or declaration of

invalidity was mooted in the case. We also find that Plaintiffs demonstrated no colorable interest in Resolution No. 6205 that was harmed by the form of notice.

We reject the arguments that the OMA was intended to support a civil suit based
on theoretical harms, since the minimal standing requirements require a plaintiff to

sufficiently allege a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.

 

BACKGROUND

 

In 2013, Plaintiffs entered into an agreement with TDA to redevelop a tract of land described as the east half of the block between Archer and Brady Streets, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[1] TDA alleged that Plaintiffs were given five extensions of time to complete their obligations under this agreement, but did not do so. On April 5, 2016, TDA included in its agenda of a regularly-scheduled meeting a discussion in executive session regarding the termination of the development agreement.

 

The Agenda states that TDA would consider:

 

  1. Discussion, consideration and vote on recommendation for action by TDA Board of Commissioners to terminate Contract for Sale of Land for Private Redevelopment between TDA and William (Will) Wilkins, Cecilia Wilkins, Novus Homes, LLC and W3 Development dated April 16th, 2013.

[Lots 1, 2, and 3, Block 44, Original Town, now City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma, according to the recorded Plat thereof].

 

  1. Discussion, consideration and vote to authorize TDA Staff to

prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) for purchase and redevelopment of TDA owned real estate located on the Northwest Comer of East Archer Street and North Elgin Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma. [Lots 1, 2, and 3, Block 44, Original Town, now City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma, according to the recorded Plat thereof]. (Emphasis added).

 

The minutes of the Regular Meeting stated as follows.

 

Discussion, consideration and vote on recommendation for action by TDA Board of Commissioners to terminate Contract for Sale of Land

for Private Redevelopment between TDA and William (Will) Wilkins, Cecilia Wilkins, Novus Homes, LLC and W3 Development dated

April 16th, 2013. [Lots 1, 2, and 3, Block 44, Original Town, now City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma, according to the recorded Plat thereof]: General Counsel Hartley recommended terminating the Contract as the final and formal action. The Redeveloper has not provided documents and did not satisfy the requirements of the Contract. After discussion, Commissioner Pegues moved to approve Resolution No. 6202 approving termination of Contract for Sale of Land for Private Redevelopment with William (Will) Wilkins, Cecilia Wilkins, Novus Homes, LLC and W3 Development for the Redevelopment of TDA owned property located at the Northwest comer of North Elgin Avenue and East Archer Street Tulsa, Oklahoma. The vote was recorded as follows:

Ayes: Mitchell, Pegues, and Roberts. Nays: None.

 

The motion passed unanimously.

 

Discussion, consideration and vote to authorize TDA Staff to

prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) for purchase and

redevelopment of TDA owned real estate located on the Northwest

Comer of East Archer Street and North Elgin Avenue, Tulsa,

Oklahoma. [Lots 1, 2, and 3, Block 44, Original Town, now City of

Tulsa, Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma, according to the recorded

Plat thereof]: General Counsel Hartley stated this Agenda item also includes the release of the RFP. The Commissioners stated that

Wilkins will not be precluded from participating in the new RFP and a certified copy will be mailed to them. After discussion, Commissioner Pegues moved to approve Resolution No. 6205 authorizing issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the sale and redevelopment of TDA owned property located at the Northwest Comer of East Archer Street and North Elgin Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Commissioner Roberts seconded the motion. The vote was recorded as follows:

 

Ayes: Mitchell, Pegues, and Roberts.

Nays: None.

 

The motion passed unanimously.

 

The emphasized portions of these notices and minutes form the core of Plaintiffs’ argument on appeal. Plaintiffs do not appear to contest on appeal the

decision to terminate the prior agreement. Plaintiffs argue, however, that the notice of a vote to authorize TDA Staff to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) for purchase and redevelopment of the property in question did not inform the public that the result of the session would be the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the sale and redevelopment of the property that Plaintiffs had previously agreed (but failed) to redevelop.

 

On August 1, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit seeking declaratory relief that Resolution No. 6205, order for the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP), was invalid because it was made in violation of the Open Meetings Act, and seeking an

Injunction preventing TDA from considering or accepting any proposals made

Pursuant to the RFP.[2] Plaintiffs subsequently filed for an emergency injunction. The docket sheet indicates that hearing on this emergency injunction was passed

several times and the matter was never heard. This was probably because TDA

subsequently rescinded Resolution No. 6205, and eventually issued a new RFP as the result of another meeting that was evidently noticed as Plaintiffs thought it

should be. Plaintiffs declined to submit a proposal in response to this new RFP.

On March 24, 2017, TDA filed a motion for summary judgment. The

motion made two arguments. The first was that any requests for an injunction to block the RFP, or for declaratory relief that the RFP was issued in violation of the OMA, were moot because Resolution No. 6205 had been repealed. The second was that, according to custom and practice, it should have been understood by Plaintiffs that there was no procedural difference between “preparing” and “issuing” an RFP, and hence no violation had taken place. Plaintiffs responded arguing that the alleged improper wording of the notice of agenda was a continuing actionable violation, even if the resulting resolution had been rescinded. It further

argued that a question of fact remained as to whether the notice had been sufficient. TDA replied with legal argument that an RFP is, by legal definition, an

invitation to prospective suppliers to bid and hence it is, by nature, issued once prepared. The district court denied summary judgment to TDA. It stated that questions of fact existed as to what damages (if any) Plaintiffs had suffered. The court also stated a finding that “a violation of the [OMA] occurred.”

 

On December 13, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a fee request seeking $29,800,

arguing that the trial court had ruled that the OMA had been violated, and hence it was entitled to fees pursuant to § 314 of the Act. TDA replied, arguing that, if the

court had decided as a matter of law that there was an OMA violation, this was

only a partial summary adjudication, was subject to reconsideration at any time before final judgment, and could not form the basis of a fee request.

 

As the prior judge had departed the trial bench, this matter was heard by a different judge, who denied the fee request pursuant to Rule 4(C) of the Rules for

the District Courts on the grounds that it raised fact issues and was unverified.

 

On February 7, 2018, TDA filed a motion to reconsider the apparent

interlocutory summary judgment that the meeting notice had violated the OMA. TDA argued that, although the pre-2003 version of Rule 13 may have allowed a court to grant summary judgment to a non-moving party, the rule has  been amended to remove this option. TDA further argued that any decision that the OMA had been violated as a matter of law was in error. In April 2018, a third

judge of the district court ruled that the previous order had not granted Plaintiffs

partial summary judgment on the issue of an OMA violation, but had merely denied TDA’s motion for summary judgment.

 

In November 2018, Plaintiffs filed their own motion for partial summary

judgment that the notice had violated the OMA as a matter of law. Despite the court’s ruling of April 2018, the motion raised an argument that the prior trial

judge had “already considered [the question] and found in her May 2017 Order that TDA did, as a matter of law, violate the Act.” A total of six briefs were filed by

the parties on the issue of an alleged OMA violation during this briefing cycle. In

April 2019, the court denied this motion for summary judgment. A dispute then arose as to whether Plaintiffs were entitled to a jury trial on the question of whether this notice of meeting was misleading or incomplete. This issue was also extensively briefed, but the request was evidently denied.

 

The pretrial order shows that Plaintiffs had refined their theories somewhat

by that time. The pretrial order shows Plaintiffs alleged “three illegal acts” by TDA. The first was a repetition of the claim that the noticed agenda warned only

of the “preparation of a RFP,” not the “issuance of a RFP.” The second was that TDA had “already resolved” to terminate the agreement with Plaintiffs before the

meeting, and the third was that a new RFP was prepared before the agreement with Plaintiffs was formally terminated.[3]

 

The matter went to a bench trial in October of 2019. Both sides filed trial

briefs. The trial itself appeared to add little to the evidence, primarily revealing only a difficult and contentious history and relationship between the parties. The Plaintiffs expanded on the third theory from the pretrial order, arguing that the OMA mandated an opportunity for public attendance and input into any RFP that TDA might prepare, and hence TDA could not prepare even a draft before a public meeting was held.

 

On November 22, the trial court ruled that it could grant Plaintiffs none of the relief specified in the Act, and that making a decision on the wording of the notice of meeting would constitute the decision of “an abstract proposition of law” on an otherwise moot issue, and that the traditional exemptions to mootness did not

apply in this case. Plaintiffs now appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

 

The factual findings of a trial court sitting without a jury in a case of legal cognizance are to be given the same weight as that which would be accorded the verdict of a well-instructed jury. The credibility of witnesses and the effect of and weight given to their testimony, as well as the resolution of conflicting or inconsistent testimony, are questions of fact to be determined by the trier. Sides v. John Cordes, Inc., 1999 OK 36, ¶16,981 P.2d 301. The de novo standard of review applies, however, to contested questions of law regardless of the type of proceeding involved. Danne v. Texaco Exploration and Prod., Inc., 1994 OK CIV APP 138, ¶7, 883 P.2d 210 (citing Salve Regina College v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225,

231, 111 S.Ct. 1217, 113 L.Ed.2d 190 (1991)).

 

ANALYSIS

 

Plaintiffs raise the following allegations of error, which are reproduced verbatim:

 

  1. Whether the district court committed reversible error in

abruptly dismissing Appellants’ statutory OMA action as “moot,” given the public policy of the OMA statutes, the evidentiary record which previously produced an adjudication that the violation occurred, and Appellants’ statutory right to recover their attorney fees upon establishing a violation.

 

  1. Whether (successor) District Court Judge Pickerill abused his discretion in his finding of April 2,2018, that (original) District Court Judge Kuehn’s previous evidentiary finding of an Open Meeting Act violation “was not a final determination of Plaintiffs’ claim that Defendant violated the Open Meetings Act.”

 

  1. Whether the district court then erred in not making or

allowing any new finding, subsequent to its April 2,2018, ruling, on the core issue of whether an OMA violation had occurred.

  1. Whether the district court’s abrupt dismissal of the case for

mootness, when Appellants had a cognizable claim of an OMA violation and a right to statutory attorney fees, was an abuse of discretion or otherwise reversible error.

 

  1. Whether the district court’s denial of Appellants’ repeated

motions and claims to attorney fees and costs was an abuse of discretion or otherwise reversible error.

 

  1. Whether the district court’s denial of Appellants’ right to a

jury trial was an abuse of discretion or otherwise reversible error.

  1. THE ALLEGATIONS OF ERROR

Plaintiffs’ six allegations of error can be reduced to three propositions:

 

  • Whether Judge Pickerill abused his discretion by finding that Judge Kuehn’s

previous finding of an OMA violation was not a final determination of Plaintiffs’ claim that Defendant violated the OMA; 2) Whether the case should have been

dismissed as moot; and 3) Is a question of deceptively vague notice a jury question in an OMA proceeding?

 

  1. This is, in Essence, a Fee Case

We note that the issue here is, in practical terms, one of fees. No practical

relief is availed to Plaintiffs. The question of whether Plaintiffs are entitled to a

judgment that the OMA was violated is driven by the fact that such a judgment would render Plaintiffs a “prevailing party” entitled to fees under the OMA.

 

  1. The Trial Court’s Statement that the OMA was Violated

TDA moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the notice was not

deceptively vague as a matter of law. Plaintiffs did not file a counter-motion for summary judgment alleging that the notice was deceptively vague as a matter of

law. Judge Kuehn denied TDA’s motion, but stated a finding that “a violation of

the OMA occurred.”

 

Pursuant to12 O.S. Appendix—Rules for District Courts of Oklahoma, Rule

13—Summary Judgment:

 

  1. If it appears to the court that there is no substantial controversy as to the material facts and that one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court shall render judgment for said party.

 

If the court finds that there is no substantial controversy as to certain

facts or issues, the court may enter an order specifying the facts or issues which are not in controversy and direct that the action proceed for a determination of the remaining fact or issues.

 

A similar formulation is found in 12 O.S. §2056:

 

  1. CASE NOT FULLY ADJUDICATED ON THE MOTION.

If summary judgment is not rendered on the whole action, the court should, to the extent practicable, determine what material facts are not genuinely at issue. The court should so determine by examining the pleadings and evidence before it and by interrogating the attorneys. It should then issue an order specifying what facts, including items of damages or other relief, are not genuinely at issue. The facts so specified must be treated as established in the action. An interlocutory summary judgment may be rendered on liability alone, even if there is a genuine issue on the amount of damages.

 

These cited sections imply that a judge may, sua sponte, grant partial summary judgment to a non-moving party, i.e., that the inquiry on summary judgment is not only whether the moving party has shown that it is entitled to summary judgment on an issue, but also whether the facts are such that the non-moving party is entitled to judgment on the same issue. The earlier sections of Rule13 appear to state a more conventional formulation of a party moving for summary judgment on the grounds that there is “no substantial controversy as to any material fact” (Rule13a) and a party opposing summary judgment filing “a concise written statement of the material facts as to which a genuine issue exists.”

(Rule 13b).

We find no case law deciding this question.”[4] We need not decide it here,

however. If the court did intend to grant partial summary judgment in its order, a partial summary adjudication is interlocutory and subject to alteration or modification by the trial court at any time before entry of final judgment. Reams v.

Tulsa Cable Television, Inc., 1979 OK 171, 604 P.2d 373. Judge Pickerill

apparently viewed the evidence differently from Judge Kuehn and found that the notice was not indisputably deceptively vague as a matter of law. We find no error

in that decision.

  1. Mootness

 

Application of Oklahoma Tpk. Auth., 1989 OK 21, 770 P.2d 16, indicates that subsequent actions can moot OMA claims. In that case, a claim that the actions of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority taken on December 8, 1988, were invalid by virtue of the provisions of the OMA was “rendered moot by the proper

Passage of a resolution on December 22” at “A meeting held incompliance with

the OMA, [which was] posted at least twenty-four hours before the meeting.”

Rogers v. Excise Bd. of Greer Cty., 1984 OK 95,701 P.2d 754, shows a similar rule. In that case, notice of a budget meeting stated that “on September 6, 1982,

the Greer County Excise Board will meet at the Greer County Courthouse.” The County Courthouse was locked and closed to the general public because

September 6, 1982, was Labor Day, a legal holiday. This presumably constitutes a violation of OMA as to any member of the public that wished to attend this meeting. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court held that “although these propositions discussed above are meritorious,… [b]ecause of the lapse of the fiscal year, the matter presented is moot. This Court will not decide abstract or hypothetical questions disconnected from the granting of actual relief or make determinations where no practical relief may be granted.” The opinion was given only to “guide the future conduct of excise boards.” A similar situation exists here, in that the subject property has now been redeveloped by a non-party.

 

Neither case indicates that Plaintiffs were still entitled to a decision that the

OMA was breached, or that Plaintiffs were entitled to a potential status as a

prevailing party purely for the “practical relief” of seeking fees when no other relief was available. The trial court found that Plaintiffs’ claim was moot because

no practical relief could be obtained. Plaintiffs argue, however, that a claim of defective OMA notice can never be entirely mooted, even if no relief against the actions of the public body is available. Plaintiffs argue that they were entitled to a declaration that the notice did not adequately describe the business that became Resolution No. 6205 in order to render them a prevailing party entitled to a fee award pursuant to the OMA, irrespective of whether they showed any cognizable harm from the form of the notice. Precisely how the mootness doctrine and the fee provisions of the OMA interact with the public policy to “encourage and facilitate an informed citizenry’s understanding of the governmental processes and

governmental problems” is worthy of discussion.

On the one hand, mounting an OMA challenge to a decision arising out of a

meeting of a public body likely requires the hire of counsel. If the public body may moot such a suit by repealing any decision made after ineffective notice, the plaintiff may have the satisfaction of forcing repeal, but that satisfaction may come at some financial cost. Placing this burden on a plaintiff appears to discourage the very intent of the Act, which is to encourage compliance with its provisions. However, the Act already contains powerful incentives to encourage compliance.

Section 314 of the Act provides criminal penalties of up to one year in jail for “any

person or persons willfully violating any of the provisions of this Act.” The threshold of “willful violation” is not particularly high considering that it results in

a criminal offense. “[Wilfullness does not require a showing of bad faith, malice, or wantonness, but rather, encompasses conscious, purposeful violations of the law

or blatant or deliberate disregard of the law by those who know, or should know

the requirements of the Act.” Rogers v. Excise Bd of Greer County, 1984 OK 95, ¶ 14, 701P.2d 754.

The potential financial burden on a plaintiff is also lessened by the fee structure of §314. Any successful plaintiff “shall be entitled to reasonable

attorney fees.” However, a public body that successfully defends an OMA suit is entitled to reasonable attorney fees only if the court “finds that the suit was clearly frivolous.” Hence a plaintiff may file any reasonable claim without the fear of having to pay fees to the public body.

 

Beyond this, however, Plaintiffs argue the Legislature intended to create

general standing for any member of the public to sue (and receive fees from), a public body for exposing a failure to use “language comprehensible to a person of ordinary education and intelligence” in a notice, without showing that the interests of that plaintiff were actually compromised or disadvantaged in any way by the form of the notice. Plaintiffs theorize that the Act essentially imposes a form of strict civil liability where inadequate notice gives standing (and a right to fees) to

any and all challengers. When combined with the lack of reciprocal fees, the possibility of semantic and technical mischief designed only to torment and harass a public body appears substantial under these circumstances. It also appears to border on the question of advisory opinions—the court essentially ruling that had the plaintiff had an interest in the subject of the meeting, the notice was inadequate to protect that interest.

 

Before delving further into this question, however, we find as our first basis for decision that the limited available precedential case law indicates that Plaintiffs’ claims have become moot, and the trial court did not err in its decision.

This case also appears to involve the more general principle of standing under the OMA, which we will investigate further.

 

  1. Plaintiffs did not Demonstrate Standing

 

Our survey of the approximately 20 published cases examining alleged

OMA violations reveals only claims involving plaintiffs with a demonstrated individual interest in the challenged decisions.[5]

 

We find only one case in which the individual interest of the plaintiff in the challenged meeting or resulting decision is not clearly stated. In Rabin v.

Bartlesville Redevelopment Tr. Auth., 2013 OK CIV APP 72, 308 P.3d 191, citizens brought action against a local redevelopment trust authority and its trustees for a violation of the OMA arising out of an allegedly improper use of an executive

session. The Court held that plaintiffs Rabin and Hurst had a right to attend what should have been a public meeting, and that right was violated by the

Redevelopment Authority meeting in an unauthorized executive session. See
Rabin at ¶ 10.

 

Rabin discussed the issue of standing in an OMA suit, noting that, in order to have standing, a party must have a sufficient interest in a justiciable controversy.

Oklahoma Educ. Ass’n v. State ex rel Oklahoma Legislature, 2007 OK 30, ¶16, 158 P.3d 1058. A court must determine whether the party has sufficiently “alleged

a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy”. Id. (citing Indep. Sch. Dist No. 9 v. Glass, 1982 OK 2, ¶ 8, 639 P.2d 1233)(emphasis added).

 

Rabin thereby indicates that, although the bar for standing in an OMA case is very low, there is a general standing requirement. In that case, standing was created simply by the Rabin plaintiffs alleging that they had a personal interest in attending the improperly closed meeting, and had a legal right to do so. This is

indeed sufficient to “allege a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.”

 

A low bar for OMA standing is consistent with the previously discussed

public policy of the State to “encourage and facilitate an informed citizenry’s understanding of the governmental processes and governmental problems.” 25 O.S. 2011, § 302. “The legislature enacted the OMA for the public’s benefit, and ‘it is to be construed liberally in favor of the public.’” Wilson v. City of Tecumseh, 2008 OK CIV APP 84, ¶ 10, 194 P.3d 140. This does not mean, however, that there are no standing requirements for an OMA plaintiff alleging defective notice. The plaintiff must still show some personal stake in the outcome of the controversy. This may be as simple as an individual interest in matters discussed

at an improperly closed meeting, or an interest in any expenditure of taxpayer funds that is discussed without being adequately noticed.

 

Even under this properly low standard, however, it is difficult to ascertain the personal stake of Plaintiffs in Resolution No. 6205 here. No otherwise

unauthorized taxpayer funds were expended. No ordinance affecting the property or civil rights of citizens was passed. No right or expectation of any citizen was terminated or curtailed. At no time did Plaintiffs allege that any interest of theirs was affected by the use of the word “prepare” instead of “issue” in the meeting notice. Nor have they added any member of the public as plaintiff who alleges that their interest in this matter was somehow frustrated by the wording of the notice or

any desire to intervene that was thwarted by this choice of words.

The record shows that Plaintiffs had no interest in responding to anew RFP.

Plaintiffs stated at trial that they did not have the money to proceed with

development of the subject property. Their prime complaint and the moving force

of the litigation appeared to be the termination of their existing contract with TDA, a matter which does not involve any OMA violation.

 

As we previously noted, the bar of standing under the OMA is set low. Any citizen who can bring a colorable assertion that his or her rights or interests protected by law have somehow been curtailed or injured by an OMA violation has standing to sue under the Act. Every reported case we find conforms to this requirement. We find no such interest, however, on the part of the Plaintiffs here. If there is a significant difference between noticing the “preparation” and the “issuance” of an RFP, Plaintiffs, who had admittedly no ability or intent to

participate in a new RFP, have not shown a “personal stake in the outcome of the

controversy” and hence had no standing in this matter.

  1. JURYTRIAL

 

Plaintiffs also argued on appeal that OMA questions regarding whether a notice used “language comprehensible to a person of ordinary education and

intelligence” or whether a public body had “pre-determined” an issue (i.e.,met in

secret) are questions of fact that must be decided by a jury. As we have found that Plaintiffs’ case is moot either for a lack of remedy or a lack of standing, we need

not address this proposition.

 

CONCLUSION

We find that any relief in the form of an injunction or declaration of

Invalidity was mooted in the case. We also find that Plaintiffs demonstrated no colorable interest in Resolution No. 6205 that was harmed by the form of notice.

We reject the arguments that the OMA was intended to support civil suits based on theoretical harms, or harms to third parties, but hold that the properly minimal

standing requirements require an OMA plaintiff to sufficiently allege and show a

personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.

 

AFFIRMED.

 

WISEMAN, P.J., and BARNES, J., concur.

March 18, 2021

 

 

 

[1] TDA’s participation in the agreement was not entirely voluntary, but the result of a lawsuit Plaintiffs had filed.

[2] The Petition also alleged that Plaintiffs had cured any default on their part, and implied that TDA could not legally terminate the agreement. Testimony at trial indicated that the matter went to arbitration, and the arbitrator ruled in favor of TDA.

[3] Plaintiffs’ portion of the pretrial order contends that all three of these alleged acts constitute violations of the OMA, but cited no authority that the second and third allegations fell under the Act.

[4] The question is complex, and appears to have arisen since the amendments to § 2056 requiring that judges make findings when denying summary judgment, because these findings can be interpreted as partial or interlocutory summary adjudications. If the law requires the moving party seeking summary judgment to also defend in its brief against partial summary judgment in factor of the non0moving party, even though the non-moving party had not requested partial summary judgment, it would be useful for the law to clearly and unequivocally state so. This interpretation could also lead to the very uncomfortable position of a movant having to argue that the facts are undisputed if the court is inclined to grand judgment to the movant, but are disputed if the court is inclined to, sua sponte, grant judgment to the non-movant.

[5] Many of these cases involve employment disputes regarding a public body’s termination of a plaintiff’s employment or failure to re-hire the plaintiff. See Horry v. City of Tulsa, 2004 OK CIV APP 13, ¶ 2, 83 P.3d 896; Isch v. Oklahoma Indep. Sch. Dist. No. I-89 of State, 1998OK CIV APP 90, 963 P.2d 18; City of Bixby v. State ex rel. Dep’t of Labor, 1996 OK CIV APP 118, 934 P.2d 364; Hoerman v. W. Heights Bd. of Educ., 1995 OK CIV APP 130, 913 P.2d 684. Commercial disputes involving the supple of water are common, presumably because such decisions are routinely made by public bodies. See Rural Water Dist. No. 1, Comanch Cty. V. City of Lawton, 2014 OK CIV APP 86, ¶ 28, 337 P.3d 103 and Okmulgee Cty. Rural Water Dist. No. 2 v. Beggs Pub. Works Auth., 2009 OK CIV APP 51, ¶¶ 2-4, 211 P.3d 225. Other cases involve zoning decisions or regulations directly affecting the financial interests of plaintiffs. See Material Serv. Corp. v. Town of Fitzhugh, 2015 OK CIV APP 13, ¶ 1, 343 P.3d 624 (quarry permit); Thomas v. City of Oklahoma City, 1998 OK CIV APP 14, ¶¶ 3-4, 955 P.2d 747 (taxi ordinance); Thomas v. City of Oklahoma City, 1998 OK CIV APP 14, 955 P.2d 747 (for hire vehicle ordinance). A number of cases involve questions of when and how executive sessions can be used. See Lafalier v. Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Tr., 2010 OK 48, ¶ 42, 237 P.3d 181. In each of the cases, plaintiff had a clear individual and legal interest in the decision in question.

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