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AM NewsBrief: Jan. 17, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.

OTA lawsuits update

Last month, the OTA was found in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Act because of vague wording in its meeting agendas that authorized contracts for the controversial ACCESS Oklahoma project. Now, the fallout from that lawsuit has led to the agency getting sued — again.

The new lawsuit claims the OTA didn’t properly remedy its actions after losing the Open Meeting suit. The OTA revamped its agenda wording and re-voted on the contacts earlier this month. But the filing attorneys say the $42 million in contract payments that had already been made can’t be ratified because the contracts themselves are voided by the ruling. Attorneys Alexey Tarasov and Stan Ward:

"They should have entered into brand new contracts with companies in compliance with the Open Meeting Acts," said Tarasov.

"And therein lies why we wanted it done the correct way, because people who have protest can then come forward and be heard and they can protest to their state representatives and their state senators. Well, we never got that chance," said Ward.

To complicate things more, the OTA filed an appeal last week with the state’s supreme court to re-decide whether it had violated the Open Meeting Act

INTEGRIS Health cutting 200 jobs

INTEGRIS Health has announced plans to cut a couple hundred positions amid financial challenges. According to INTEGRIS, the decision has been made to remove 200 positions, including 140 caregivers following the lasting financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement Monday INTEGRIS said the reasons for the financial challenges are multifold, but some include a dramatic rise in expenses due to labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions, and significantly lower patient volumes compared to pre-pandemic days.

Oil company allegedly steals water from OKC, damages wildlife refuge

Oklahoma City has filed a lawsuit against an oil company for stealing the city’s water and harming protected lands at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.

Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge is a swath of Oklahoma City land between Bethany and Yukon. It offers a scenic area for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and bird watching.

But the city says an oil company damaged the wetland refuge—leaving trash, cutting down trees and altering the landscape—to install an illegal water pipe. The company, Revolution Resources, operates a well site at the Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, where they started drilling last spring. The city alleges that Revolution piped water from the North Canadian River in the wildlife refuge to its drilling site, even after city officials and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board said it couldn’t.

Last week, the city filed a lawsuit against Revolution for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Cherokee Nation mental health investment

The Cherokee Nation is proposing a record investment in the tribal nation's mental health care system.

Cherokee Nation officials want to commit $100 million dollars for new addiction treatment facilities and programs, a scholarship and other initiatives. The money would come via new legislation and an amendment to the tribal nation's 2021 Public Health and Wellness Act.

$85 million in settlement funds from Cherokee Nation's opioid and e-cigarette lawsuits will be used to pay for the investments. The tribal nation settled with Juul last year over the company's role in youth vaping and with opioid manufacturers in 2021.

$5 million dollars of the investment would go toward a behavioral health scholarship fund that would encourage Cherokee citizens to enter into the field.

New Arkansas River dam partnership

Two Oklahoma cities and a tribal government have officially agreed to create a lake in the Arkansas River.

The mayors of Tulsa and Jenks joined Muscogee Principal Chief David Hill on Thursday in a formal agreement to build a dam in the Arkansas River. The dam will create a lake in the river from 101st to 71st streets in Tulsa.

The project will ultimately cost more than $100 million between the three governments.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the project has been a long time coming.

"People have been talking about it for over half a century, and thanks to a historic regional collaboration, we're gonna make it happen," said Bynum.

Hill said the development will help the Muskogee Nation develop land near its casino on the river in south Tulsa. Jenks mayor Cory Box said the dam is the most significant economic development in his city’s history.

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