Judge Rules Norman, OK. City Council Used Deception to Defund the Police Department

Judge Rules Norman, OK. City Council Used Deception to Defund the Police Department

By Steve Pomper 

You’ve all heard the condescending arguments against voter I.D. laws, contending that requiring an I.D. somehow suppresses the vote—especially minorities. However, doesn’t logic dictate having a valid I.D. can only suppress illegal votes? This is no different than businesses requiring an I.D. because it suppresses crimes committed against them. Most of the people I dealt with, living on the streets had I.D.  

Well, add to that intentionally obfuscating the notice for a city council meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, through amorphous and omitted information about the specific topic. According to KFOR News 4, “The Norman City Council held a special meeting in June to vote on the city’s budget for fiscal 2021, which included proposed cuts to the police budget.” Defunding the Police. But the meeting wasn’t reported that way in the notice to the public.  

A group called Norman Citizens for Racial Justice wanted Mayor Breea Clark, City Manager Darrel Pyle, and the city council “to defund and demilitarize the Norman Police Department.” During the 11-hour meeting, after Council Member Alexandra Scott proposed a $4.5 million defunding of the police department, the council settled on $865,000 specifically to be taken, “from the police salaries and benefits portion of the department’s budget.” Never tell me these people are genuinely concerned with only the rare cases of actual “police brutality. Groups like that just hate cops. 

Concerned about the cuts to public safety, the Norman Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sued the city council for violating the Open Meetings Act (OMA). Judge Thomas Baldwin agreed with the FOP that the meeting notice, “was deceptively word[ed] or materially obscured the stated purpose of the meeting and is therefore a willful violation [of the OMA].” President Robert Wasoski of the FOP said they will “continue to hold City Council accountable and advocate for adequate funding for the police department.” 

Here’s where the defund the police proponents, sadly, the political leadership of the city of Norman, tread on voter-I.D. opponents’ territory. The city of Norman issued a statement opposing Judge Baldwin’s decision. The City argues, against the decision’s, “negative future impact on citizen involvement in government.”

So, even when city politicians violate a state law mandating clarity and specificity when issuing public meeting notices, a judge’s ruling enforcing that clarity violates people having a say in their government. That “reasoning” is no clearer than the original city council meeting notice.

The City rationalized, “The City believes its citizens have a right to influence the decisions of their elected officials through open public discourse. We believe this court’s decision has a direct negative impact on this right and is inconsistent with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Open Meeting Act. The City will file an appeal to protect the right of its citizens to suggest amendments and changes to government decisions in open public meetings at the City of Norman.” This was not about having a meeting; this was about reporting it as the law requires.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Judge “Baldwin wrote a required notice… was ‘deceptively worded.’” The Oklahoman reported, “The notice said the council was going to consider adoption of the city’s proposed operating and capital budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.” Baldwin further noted that, from the notices’ language, an average citizen, “would not have understood that there would be a defunding… of any underlying departments’ budget.” 

Talk about a negative impact on citizen involvement in government. A popular political notion of the day, from one political faction, is defunding the police—in those words. Why, if the City is so confident in its position, would it obscure language about defunding the police? Obviously, to keep those who disagree with defunding the police from attending the meeting—keep them from being involved in their government. 

City leaders are obviously being disingenuous when they attempt to hide behind their concern for their citizens’ government participation. They seem not at all interested in government participation from those who disagree with the City’s defund the police efforts. Fortunately, even with the defunders’ original intent to hack $4.5 million off the department’s $23 million budget, they only managed to cut a fraction of that. By deception is no way to run any level of government in a free country, but, sadly, it’s become routine all across the United States of America.