State Rep.: Oklahoma Workers’ Comp Court Officials Should Go

April 1, 2010

Saying the state’s Workers’ Compensation Court has for years stonewalled legislative records requests, state Rep. Mike Reynolds has called for the dismissal of the court’s administrator, Marcia Davis, and legal counsel, Tish Sommer.

“Court officials have made one excuse after another for delaying the release of records and it is clear they have no legal justification for their actions,” Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said in a statement released by the House of Representatives. “In light of their brazen refusal to obey the law, I believe top officials at the court should step down. Additionally, I am greatly disappointed in the actions of the chief judge, Ken Eldridge.”

Reynolds says state law provides that a legislator may request information on prior workers’ compensation claims “in the performance of his or her duties on behalf of a governmental entity or as may be allowed by law.” Additionally, information must be provided “for claims information made by a public officer or by a public employee in the performance of his or her duties” even if the information is not otherwise subject to an open-records request from a member of the public.

On August 13, 2009, Reynolds requested, in writing, bulk data that is clearly not confidential from the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation system.

Court officials have continually stonewalled since then, he said. Eventually, they claimed they needed an official Attorney General’s opinion before proceeding.

However, Reynolds says that after the Attorney General’s office sent a letter to the Court requesting information, the Court has not complied.

“The Office of the Attorney General serves as the legal counsel for state agencies, so it appears the Workers Compensation Court is now stonewalling its own lawyer,” Reynolds said. “I have never seen an agency show greater contempt for transparency laws. In light of these potentially illegal actions, Court Administrator Marsha Davis and Special Counsel Tish Sommer should resign immediately.”

The Court has been under fire this legislative session and has figured prominently in changes sought by GOP legislators in bills aimed at reforming the workers’ comp system in Oklhaoma. Among the changes that GOP leaders want is the elimination of two judge positions at the Workers’ Compensation Court, limiting judges’ terms, requiring Senate confirmation of judges, mandatory mediation of claims and the creation of a three-judge panel of magistrates to handle all appeals.

Source: Oklahoma Legislature

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