City pays six figures in attorney costs – at least – over foul language claim

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City of Lawton

  • Ledger file photo by Curtis Awbrey The City of Lawton currently has six tort claims filed against the municipality due to the alleged actions of former City Attorney Frank Jensen.
    Ledger file photo by Curtis Awbrey The City of Lawton currently has six tort claims filed against the municipality due to the alleged actions of former City Attorney Frank Jensen.
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Lawton has spent approximately $160,000, so far, in legal fees investigating and defending a tort claim against the city in reference to the former city attorney who is accused by six women of  “misconduct,” The Ledger has learned.

According to a number of sources, the women filed the claim against the city alleging Lawton’s former top legal advisor, Frank Jensen, used vulgar language in conversations with them over an underdetermined period of time.

Mr. Jensen, is no longer the city attorney. When contacted by phone, Jenson hung on a Ledger reporter.

In November, The Ledger filed a state Open Records with the city request seeking a copy of the claim, telephone records related to the claim, and other pieces of information that the city holds involving the dispute.   

The city has turned over a number of records but has refused to turn over the actual refused to turn over the actual cell phone text messages. Current City Attorney Bob Ross questions the validity of the requests since the text messages were sent and received on a private phone.

The Ledger has objected, citing a state attorney general’s opinion which says such records are open to public review and must be given to citizens and the news media when requested. 

According to Oklahoma Attorney General Opinion 09-12, email communications and text messages made or received by a public official in connection with any public business are subject to disclosure under the state law, The Ledger contends.

The Attorney General’s opinion also states that “to conclude otherwise would allow public officials and employees to circumvent the open records laws simply by using privately-owned personal electronic communication devices to conduct business.”