Oklahoma important stories

During a tumultuous year, we at NonDoc were able to split our attention between COVID-19, the Oklahoma Legislature, the 2020 election cycle and other reporting that you did not find anywhere else. Our reporters remained ambitious and followed up with in-depth stories on issues facing this state. We were also able to publish the occasional first-person pieces content that offered interesting perspective on difficult times

Below, please enjoy a chronological listing of some of our most interesting and important stories from 2020. Click on the arrow buttons below to slide between pieces, and click on the headlines to read the articles.

1Oklahoma’s ‘small town with big-city water problems’

For operational problems at the Heavener Water Treatment Facility, Veolia North America received a $3 million fine from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in October 2019. (Daniel Miley)
Thursday, Jan. 2
By Daniel Miley 

When we learned of this story in 2019, many residents of a small community in LeFlore County had decided to stop drinking their city’s tap water. The Heavener City Council eventually voted to terminate its contract with a water treatment company riddled with violations that could affect human health.

2Oklahoma pays $1.45-per-hour for prison telemarketing

Three incarcerated women walk near the front gate of Kate Bernard Correctional Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Tres Savage)
Friday, Jan. 17
By Tres Savage

NonDoc obtained contracts between the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and private telemarketing firms that operate call centers in six state prisons. The contracts show the companies pay the DOC a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage. However, the prison marketing program only pays workers $1.45-per-hour.

3During exit, Boren ensured top OU vice presidents got ‘retention incentive’ payments

In 2017, then-OU President David Boren (top right) and then-OU Board of Regents Chairman Clay Bennett (bottom right) negotiated a bonus agreement for six OU vice presidents. Those receiving the “retention incentive” payments were, clockwise from top left: Nick Hathaway, Tripp Hall, Kenneth Rowe, Chris Purcell, Anil Gollahalli and Clarke Stroud. (NonDoc)
Thursday, March 5
By Tres Savage

Before longtime University of Oklahoma President David Boren retired, university records show that the OU Board of Regents authorized Boren’s request for more than $800,000 in “retention incentive” payments to six of his top vice presidents.

4‘Gigantic impact’: Chesapeake Energy’s complex legacy

Gray skies hang over the Chesapeake Energy corporate campus in Oklahoma City on March 16, 2020. (Andrea DenHoed)
Tuesday, April 14
By Andrea DenHoed 

Chesapeake Energy has been an integral part of Oklahoma life for the past few decades, employing thousands and playing a central role in Oklahoma City’s economic and cultural boost. However, the company filed for bankruptcy in mid-2020, about two months after NonDoc examined its complex legacy.

5‘The earth rocked’: A diary from the day of the Oklahoma City bombing

Newspaper headlines reflected the shock felt across the country after the Oklahoma City bombing, on April 19, 1995. (Michael Duncan)
Sunday, April 19
By Michael Duncan 

Michael Duncan, a lawyer, Norman resident and photographer, was one of many Oklahomans who couldn’t sleep the night after the Oklahoma City bombing. He wrote this piece while the memory of the morning lingered in his head. It remained unpublished until he shared it here in 2020.

6‘Gray days are the hardest’: a pandemic diary

The author walks through her neighborhood in Norman, Oklahoma. (Rilla Askew)
Tuesday, April 28
By Rilla Askew

In the first installment for a series of pandemic diaries from Oklahoma writers, author Rilla Askew predicted our actions on “gray days” during the collateral effects of COVID-19.

7After veto, some Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses in license limbo

The Fire Leaf medical marijuana dispensary location in Edmond, Oklahoma, is caught in a statutory struggle to remain open. (Matt Patterson)
Monday, June 8
By Matt Patterson

In May, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed HB 3228, which could have provided medical marijuana companies with relief and aimed to protect dispensaries that had been licensed prior to when a 2019 bill established new residency requirements, putting many marijuana businesses in danger.

8‘The economy is shit’ and other thoughts from Trump fans in Tulsa

People wait in line to enter the BOK Center ahead of President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Tres Savage)
Sunday, June 21
By Tres Savage

Here, our editor-in-chief described his encounters with fans of President Donald Trump during a controversial rally in the heart of Tulsa. Fears of clashes between supporters and counter-protesters were ultimately allayed, but many everyday Americans still felt concern for the economy and the state of the nation as a whole.

9Banks make bank from Paycheck Protection Program

Oklahoma banks have made millions of dollars in fees from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. (NonDoc)
Thursday, July 16
By Matt Patterson

While Congress approved the Paycheck Protection Program in April and guaranteed more than $500 billion in loans to small businesses trying to survive the pandemic, the banks loaning the funds have been benefitting from the fees associated with the loans.

10Oklahoma City tries, once again, to fix police oversight

An Oklahoma City police officer talks to protesters during demonstrations near the downtown police station and the Oklahoma County Jail on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Michael Duncan)
Wednesday, Sept. 2
By Andrea DenHoed

Oklahoma City currently has the second-highest rate of police killings per capita in the country. Amid protests about police killings around the nations, OKC community members called for oversight of the police department. But it’s not the first time change has been sought.

11Anita Arnold: A Black woman’s hope and courage

Anita Arnold, executive director of the Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc., smiles in her office on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Michael Duncan)
Tuesday, Oct. 6
By Archiebald Browne

Anita Arnold, 80, is a Black woman who has lived her life with the courage that was taught to her. As she overcame obstacles to reach her point of success, she paved the way for others to succeed as well.

12‘I’m overwhelmed’: Single parents navigate virtual learning

Liz Turner’s daughter, Samantha Turner, participates in a class Zoom meeting from home. (Provided)
Wednesday, Oct. 7
By Megan Prather

As students across America shifted to online learning while the pandemic raged, single parents found themselves at a high hurdle balancing school at home and work.

13Hochatown: Southeast Oklahoma’s unlikely tourism hub

For most of its existence, Hochatown, Oklahoma, was barely a blip on the map. Now tourism has brought new life to the community. (Heide Brandes)
Monday, Nov. 23
By Heide Brandes

With a long history that involves bootlegging and Bigfoot, Hochatown in southeast Oklahoma faces a continued fight over municipal services. Learn about the community’s fascinating history in this feature story that also examines a dispute over incorporation.