The ACLU of Oklahoma was in court Thursday afternoon to demand transparency from Scott Pruitt, the recently confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and to remind him that no one is above the law — not even Oklahoma’s top law enforcement officer or members of the President’s cabinet.
For more than two years, Pruitt has stonewalled the right of non-profit organizations, the people of Oklahoma, the United States Senate, and the American people to access thousands of pages of documents requested under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. Calling Pruitt’s refusal to comply with the Oklahoma Open Records Act an “abject failure,” Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons ordered an imminent end to this disgraceful lack of transparency. The court ordered the attorney general to comply with the oldest request for records by this Tuesday and ordered that the majority of documents be turned over within 10 days.
Judge Timmons noted that Pruitt’s failure to follow the law frustrated the spirit and the purpose of the Open Records Act. It speaks volumes that the judge felt compelled to read a relevant section of the open records law aloud in open court to Pruitt’s lawyer. To be fair, the legal team for the attorney general was in an impossible position. The law requires you to act promptly and reasonably, but Pruitt’s actions have been anything but prompt and reasonable.
Within hours of the hearing, members of the U.S. Senate referenced Judge Timmons’ Tuesday deadline for Pruitt to turn over thousands of pages of relevant emails. One after another, senators rose to implore their Senate colleagues to delay an extraordinary Friday vote for Pruitt’s confirmation so that the Senate can review these documents prior to taking a vote.
This request was reasonable and should have found support from senators of both parties. Despite the complete lack of transparency, the senate rushed to confirm Pruitt, approving him 52-46 Friday afternoon.
Rushing the vote out of fear the forthcoming documents may have frustrated the nomination was irresponsible. Without the documents Judge Timmons ordered released, the Senate voted to confirm a nominee without the information necessary to make an informed decision. They sent a clear signal today that there is a reward to delay and that the law can be ignored for political gain.
The vote to confirm Pruitt will not stop our efforts to compel Pruitt to comply with the law. The ACLU and our allies are more committed than ever to disabusing public officials of the notion that they are unaccountable to the people. We will continue to work to ensure that our government be held accountable to the people it serves.