Pike Off OTA sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) on January 2, 2023 asking for him to replace Tim Gatz, the state secretary of transportation, and Joe Echelle, the deputy director of the OTA. Here is the letter.
January 2, 2023
To the Honorable Kevin Stitt
Governor of the State of Oklahoma
Office of Governor J. Kevin Stitt
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Suite 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Governor Stitt:
The ACCESS Oklahoma Program that you developed with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority executive director and his deputy director has caused great angst for a lot of Oklahomans. Apparently, the Nation nixed the idea of putting a turnpike east of Lake Thunderbird through tribal lands. And the decision was made to extend the Kickapoo Turnpike on the west side of the lake. All this was done in secrecy while coalitions for support of the program (largely the firms who stand to benefit financially) were being built.
You made the public announcement introducing the ACCESS Oklahoma plans on February 22, 2022. These plans shocked and angered hundreds of property owners whose homes, farms and businesses are in or near the proposed routes. Less than 48 hours after the trial court in Cleveland County formalized its judgment that found willful violations of the Open Meeting Act regarding the OTA board’s January and February, 2022 meetings, the OTA has shown zero contrition. Rather, it is attempting to “ratify” invalid contracts at its board meeting on January 3, 2023, to pay engineering firms for work on invalid contracts that were secretly negotiated.
This precipitous action is being taken during the holiday season when many Oklahoma families are celebrating the season. Moreover, it is consistent with how this whole ACCESS Oklahoma Program has been conducted.
Governor Stitt, we believe that you have the best of intentions for the state we love, and when decisions are made on bad advice, they usually turn out to be bad. The Old Testament reveals what kings did when their advisors gave poor advise. Your Secretary of Transportation and his OTA deputy director have demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to follow the law and they should be replaced.
It is disappointing to say the least to have government operating in the shadows. By passing the Open Meeting Act in 1977, an informed citizenry has been our public policy to avoid secret deals and giveaways. Speaking for ourselves and the other 243 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and the hundreds of others whose homes and farms would be destroyed, we urge, hope and pray that you use your power as governor to put the brakes on this and uphold the Open Meeting Act even when it might not fit your plans.
Tassie Hirschfeld, Lead Plaintiff
Dr. Amy Cerato, OU Prof. of Civil Engineering
Rachar S. Tortorello, Norman City Council, Ward 5