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University Of Oklahoma To Release Parking Ticket Details After Lawsuit

University of Oklahoma parking ticket
Brian Hardzinski
/
KGOU

University of Oklahoma President David Boren says the school will now release university parking ticket records after a student filed a federal lawsuit seeking the information.

Journalism student Joey Stipek sued the university in 2013 after he was denied parking ticket records for a story in The Oklahoma Daily. The paper explained its rationale for joining the lawsuit in a Wednesday editorial:

Access to records is essential for journalists to successfully keep a watch on government and public institutions, and for this reason The Daily is joining a lawsuit that was originally filed by journalism senior Joey Stipek in May 2013. Stipek, who is currently the special projects editor at The Daily, sued OU President David Boren and the director of OU’s Open Records Office when the director wouldn’t release students’ parking ticket records. Stipek filed a request for the records in fall 2012 to investigate whether the university was granting preferential parking ticket appeals to any individuals on campus. The Open Records Office denied the request, claiming the records are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

But Borenannounced Wednesday that parking tickets should be public because they are traffic violations, not student records.

While there are differing interpretations of the federal law, I have personally and carefully considered the issue, and I believe that this action does not violate the intent of the federal privacy law. I have directed the General Counsel’s Office and other relevant university officials to take the appropriate steps to implement this decision. I have no reason to believe that there has been any impropriety in the parking ticket program, but I believe that the public has a right to know how it has been implemented.

Stipek says he's pleased with Boren's decision but that he hopes a similar policy will be enacted at other universities. His attorney Nick Harrison says this is the first open records lawsuit he's followed through to the end.

Stipek's attorney, Nick Harrison, said this is the first open records-related lawsuit he's handled that has followed through to the end.

"[Boren's decision] is definitely a sign the university is moving in the right direction," Harrison said. Harrison said the only downfall of Boren's decision is that there will be no legal precedent set since the case will not go to court, but he hopes it will set an informal precedent for other universities to follow. There is no defined legal procedure that Boren must follow to make a decision like this, said Anil Gollahalli, OU Legal Counsel vice president.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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