Lawsuit helps publish documents kept hidden in former Owasso vice mayor’s 2013 traffic stop

OWASSO, Okla. — A report the City of Owasso to keep from the public for seven years is no longer hidden.

The city recently lost a court case filed by a former Owasso city councilor in the 2013 traffic stop of then-Owasso Vice Mayor and current City Councilor Chris Kelley.

In the video, officers can be heard telling Kelley he had too much to drink, that he failed three sobriety tests and that he’s getting a DUI.

Kelley didn’t ask for special treatment, but officers offered to drive him home after finding out who he was.

Former City Manager Rodney Ray was then accused of asking for those police videos to be deleted.

That request was one of the issues that prompted an internal investigation into Ray’s actions -- an investigation that cost taxpayers more than $20,000.

The findings became known as the “Fortney Report.”

The council went into executive session and read the report, but no one else got to see it.

Ray resigned as city manager and received a $185,000 severance package.

FOX23 tried to ask Ray about the situation at the time, but he didn’t want to talk.

FOX23 requested the Fortney Report from the city with an open records request, but the city denied the request saying it was a “personnel record.”

Patrick Ross, who was a city councilor at the time, thought the citizens of Owasso deserved to see it, so he filed a lawsuit against the city in 2013.

A judge ruled in Ross’s favor, saying the city has to make the Fortney Report and all of the supporting documents available to the public.

The report revealed that Ray did ask for the police videos to be deleted, and lists five state laws that were possibly broken.

The judge ruled in early March 2021 that the city has to pay about $166,000 in damages, but Ross’s attorneys settled for about $130,000.

Ray died last August, and Ross died in January before the court’s ruling.

Ross’s attorney Christopher Camp told FOX23 that this case sets a precedent and creates more transparency in local government.

Current City Councilors Chris Kelley and Doug Bonebrake were on the council back when the investigation happened, and FOX23 News reached out to both of them about it.

Bonebrake responded in an email saying:

“Their ruling will have significant negative effects with managing personnel in all Oklahoma cities, townships and other public entities. We are hopeful the Oklahoma state legislature will take action amending open records statute(s) with language that will protect the confidentiality of certain personnel records to avoid any future injustices similar to this case.”

Kelley did not respond.

“The documents are available by open record request,” a city representative said.

“We respect the appellate court’s ruling and have complied in all respects.”