Workman, a regular at council meetings and an announced candidate for state labor commissioner, had
asked to address the council on "the Dewey (Bartlett) deception, the Dewey double-down dodge,
and the Dewey debris delay debacle" during untelevised public comment portion of last
Thursday's meeting. With sufficient advance notice, members of the public can list agenda items for
that part of the meeting.
City Council Chairman David Patrick pulled Workman's item
from the agenda because O'Meilia objected that it was vague and therefore violated the state Open
Workman then signed up to speak on Bartlett's reappointment of trash
board Chairman Randy Sullivan. As he began to speak, Workman referred to his pulled agenda item.
O'Meilia and Patrick quickly shut him down. Patrick told him he needed to confine his comments to
the reappointment, but when Workman tried to speak again, he was escorted from the
The Oklahoma Open Meetings Act is designed to adequately inform the
citizens about what government is doing or intends to do at a meeting of a public body.
Consequently, government entities must post agendas in advance that must "be worded
in plain language, directly stating the purpose of the meeting... [and] the language used should be
simple, direct and comprehensible to a person of ordinary education and
intelligence." Andrews v. Independent School District No. 29 of Cleveland County,
1987 OK 40, 737 P.2d 929.
However, setting aside application of the Open Meetings Act, what occurred at
the council meeting raises a more troubling question: do the actions of O'Meilia and Patrick
represent an unconstitutional prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment?
A "designated public forum" is created when the government
"intentionally open[s] a nontraditional public forum for public discourse." Ark.
Educ. Television Comm'n v. Forbes, 523 U.S. 666, 677 (1998). The government's action in
excluding a member of a class to which a designated forum is made generally available is subject to
strict scrutiny. Id. A "limited public forum," on the other hand,
"arises where the government allows selective access to some speakers or some types of speech
in a nonpublic forum, but does not open the property sufficiently to become a designated public
forum." Summum v. City of Ogden, 297 F.3d 995, 1002 n. 4 (10th Cir.2002). Any
government restriction on speech in a limited public forum must only be reasonable in light of the
purpose served by the forum and be viewpoint neutral. Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of
Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 829 (1995).
you have questions about the Open Meetings Act, or rights protected by the First Amendment, contact
the attorneys at Bryan & Terrill Law,