The Pryor Times

September 10, 2013

Information black out

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

— Ron Coats has amended his lawsuit against the town of Disney.

Coats sued the town requesting public records. When he got them, he says much of the information was blacked out.

On Aug. 3, a  judge ruled in favor of Ron Coats and ordered the town of Disney to release the town records Coats requested.

Coats said he filed that civil suit because he was denied access to public records. He said the records include budget information, run sheets and gas logs. Per the judge’s order, the records were released to Coats.

The official amendment of the lawsuit says, “Plaintiff Ron Coats, hereby supplements his Motion to Compel Compliance with court order and for Show Cause Hearing to hold defendant and its agents in contempt of court for failure to comply with the court's order.”

“When I got them (the records), I saw that a bunch of information was blacked out,” said Coats. “I never once asked for social security numbers or personal information.”

Coats said among the records he received were copies of checks written in a six-month period, many of which had the “pay to the order of” portion of the check blacked out.

A total of 40 checks had the recipient blacked out and the total amount of those checks was $16,565.93. The amounts were recurring, checks written for $830.85 occurred near the first and 15th of each month, a total of 10 times. Checks for $404.03 were written the same number of times and on the same dates, while there were 12 checks for $230.03, two issued on the first of each month.

“Yes, some information was blacked out because he doesn't need it,” said Disney Mayor Judy Barger.

Disney Town Clerk Sherry Page said the blacked out checks were payroll checks for three city employees.

“They were blacked out because I followed the directions of the city attorney,” said Page.

Copies of the checks written were entered as an exhibit accompanying the motion. Attached to the checks is a certificate of mailing signed by the plaintiff's attorney stating his confirmation that the information being provided in the amendment was true and correct.  

“It is a citizen's right to do this. Anybody spending our taxpayer's money, you can look into what they're doing,” said Coats. “People have quit looking.”

Coats said he knows there is speculation he has been hired by someone involved in ongoing incidents involving the county commissioners, fire departments and flood plain board, but he said that's simply not true.

“Nobody tells me what to do. If I think it’s necessary, or the right thing to do, I'll do it,” said Coats. “I'm looking out for fellow taxpayers because we're the ones getting screwed.”

Coats said he has not profited from this lawsuit, rather he has lost a significant amount of money.

“I'm out over $10,000 of my own money doing this. That's for fuel, legal fees, etc. It's so aggravating that people are accusing me of making money on this,” said Coats.

Page said Coats also requested purchase orders and accompanying receipts, but has yet to pick them up from the town office.

“He drives everyone crazy, I don't know why anyone even prints what he says,” said Barger. “Once he's done with us he'll move on to Langley or something. He'll keep doing this until hell freezes over.”

This is not the first time Coats has sued for public records. In 2011, he filed a civil suit asking for Strang Fire Department records.