Hubin caves on fees for OH air quality docs

9/25/2012: Sorry, long post. The gist? If you want action at UO go to Pete DeFazio and your union – the latter is DeFazio’s advice. While Oregon’s public records law website says:

Government transparency is vital to a healthy democracy. Public scrutiny helps ensure that government spends tax dollars wisely and works for the benefit of the people. Oregon’s Public Records and Meetings Laws underscore the state’s commitment to transparency. Government records are available to the public, and governing bodies must conduct deliberations and make decisions in the open.

that’s the theory, not UO’s practice.

I made a public records request for documents on expenditures to address Oregon Hall air quality on August 16. A month later I got a few scraps of spreadsheets from the PR Office, and a letter saying that if I wanted more info the office, which reports to UO President Mike Gottfredson via Dave Hubin, would charge me hundreds of dollars. They told me that by their standards the public interest did not justify a fee wavier. Meanwhile the OH people went to Congressman Pete DeFazio, who told Gottfredson to get on it:

A week after this letter George Hecht was organizing public meetings and hiring a consultant to dig into the problems. An actual air-quality consultant, not a Robin Holmes manipulate-public-opinion consultant.

But the public records office still refused to waive the fees. I pushed this with Lisa Thornton during her interview for UO’s Public Record’s Officer position a few weeks ago. I got some weird pushback from UO Journalism and Communications Dean Tim Gleason, who was also at the interviews. I don’t understand why Gleason has decided to devote his time to trying to weaken public records access and transparency at UO, instead of helping expose and stop Robin Holmes from spending $17,000 to $55,000 in public funds to manipulate the student vote, but I’m sure he’s got his reasons.

Ms Thornton is a competent person, formerly interim and now promoted to the permanent PRO job. I’m sure she has just been following the orders she got from Hubin and Berdahl on how to delay and frustrate people looking for public records. And on Friday, she suddenly caved and gave a full fee waiver. I’ll post the docs when I get them. This is the first time UO has waived fees in response to a public interest argument since Hubin and Berdahl cracked down on public records access in May. I’ll call it a 5% improvement in transparency, still a long way from where we were with Lariviere, and even farther from where UC-I was under Gottfredson.

While UO will stonewall release of legitimate public records that might embarrass some administrator, it has a huge and expensive public relations apparatus and many staffers dedicated to putting out stuff to try and UO’s administrators look good. That work is so clearly impossible that it must pay very well indeed, right, Provost Bean?

My guess is that Thornton and Hubin waived the fees on these documents for one simple reason – someone in JH looked at them and figured that their release would not be as embarrassing as continued stonewalling in the face of DeFazio’s letter above and the persistence of those who work in OH. That’s not exactly the public-interest cost-benefit test the law envisions, but if that what it takes, this blog is plenty willing to help supply the necessary levels of embarrassment.

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32 Responses to Hubin caves on fees for OH air quality docs

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Pete and SEIU
    Thanks UOM

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  2. Anonymous says:

    If you have a problem with Oregon Hall Air Quality…speak up, write up, do something, say something…is that the advice I’m getting? I like it. Thank you Oregon Hall Employees for taking a stand!

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  3. Angry old lady says:

    OH has had an air problem for YEARS! It’s about time someone takes up the issue. Employees are physically ill from working in that building and no one takes it serious. If the problem were in JH they would be all over it spending what ever it takes to fix the problem. Go figure.

    Another note to express….Dave H should be ashamed for what he has become. But then that would ask that he have a moral compass. We all know he sold that to DF like the other administrators have done as well.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Why has this problem been going on for years?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because it’s not clear what the problem is. Apparently two different testing firms (OSHA and a private firm) have tested the air in Oregon Hall and haven’t found anything wrong.

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    • Anonymous says:

      We’ve been lied to our faces, telling individuals they are the only one complaining. It’s a cover up in Campus Ops and EHS. They know who they are. We are all talking now, so no more lies.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Calling what you describe a “cover up” is a bit of a stretch.

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    • Anonymous says:

      you must be one of the folks worried

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cover up is the correct word. You must not be one of the worried folks, if you work in Oregon Hall, you should be worried…that air you are breathing everyday, forty hours a week, cannot be good for you or anyone in that building. People smoke for a years and years and then one day…that is what is going to happen to people in that building. Feel free to research Air Quality,scary stuff.
      AND, Campus Operations and EHS have lied.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Again, are OSHA and a private testing firm in on the coverup? If this building is so obviously riddled with mold and fibers, why hasn’t it shown up in tests?

      The tests don’t prove that there isn’t an air quality problem, but they do demonstrate that it isn’t an obvious one.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe someone isn’t doing there job correctly….maybe they are not testing during a 24 hour time period (which is the recommended time alot, per OSHA…but is OSHA testing for 24 hours?). Okay, let us say it is not mold or fibers…what is it? It is not my job to find out the problem. I don’t work for OSHA or EHS, I work in Oregon Hall and there is a problem with Oregon Hall. The issue is not mold, the issue is there is a problme that must be resolved.

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    • Anonymous says:

      So we can agree that accusations of a coverup are silly?

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    • Anonymous says:

      If something is not being covered up, then why lie? EHS and Campus Ops managers have been lying to us for years. Stop trying to smooth this over on UOM and figure out the problem.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No, we cannot agree that the accusations of a coverup are silly.

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  5. Angry Old Lady says:

    cover up? Pleeeeeease. Our administration has become the masters of manipulation and deceit a cover up is child’s play.

    The building is a sick building. Mold, fibers in the air, the lack of fresh air has caused bleeding sinuses, burning in the throat, lungs and on the skin, people are having breathing issues.

    The problem is it will cost to fix it. The UO already tried to fix it at great expense and it got worse. What needs to happen is either drop it to the ground and start over or strip it clean of everything inside and rebuild.

    The expense of either of these choices is not worth the health of one employee inside that building to any of the administrators.

    THEY don’t care.

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    • Anonymous says:

      OSHA and a private testing firm must be in on the coverup as neither one found mold or fibers at unsafe levels. Makes for a great story though…

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    • Anonymous says:

      LOL…you sit over here any where in the building for two weeks for 40 hours a week and see if you have a physical reaction

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    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe I have…and lived to tell about it… ROFL

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    • Anonymous says:

      Jeremy?

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  6. Angry Old Lady says:

    Oh anonymous…here is the great story.

    The UO will of course deny any air quality issue is there. Because… if a problem was to be found it would bring even more problems, such as extensive liability issues. Then the usual process would follow and the UO will pay what ever it takes to keep this issue out of court and go on about their business. And still not fix the problem. How’s that story for ya.

    This building was 4 years old when I started working in it and the air quality has gotten worse every year. My work mate left years ago with bleeding sinuses believed to come from this building and today I have breathing issues I believe came from this building. I have had people setting at my desk and ask me if I can smell the mold and before they can finish their appointment have asked to go outside…in fact I have customers that won’t ever come back into this building..we meet outside or at the EMU.

    Just because the problem doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Some people have reactions, some don’t. Always been that way. One thing is clear…our lives aren’t worth a plug nickle to the administration to put effort into work on fixing the problem and as usual this administration…(and it sounds like you are one of them) will deny, deny, deny until it goes away.

    Guess what…it won’t go away.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Dog says again

      A sensible resolution to this would be to replace all the
      windows so that they open. It might not solve the problem
      but its a worthy experiment to do and it would not cost
      duckloads of money.

      I also predict that it would solve about 75% of the problem.

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    • Angry Old Lady says:

      That solution was brought up in the 80’s and shot down. Next….

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    • Anonymous says:

      its not the 80’s anymore (better windows exist)
      and it still remains the most cost effective choice

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    • Anonymous says:

      1. Replace windows. 2. Building energy efficiency plummets. 3. Complaints continue or increase (now they wasted money on windows – IDIOTS!).

      Worthwhile experiment?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wow. I say that last comment is really rude. I think any action to help people in Oregon Hall is a worthwhile experiment. I choose people over money.

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    • Anonymous says:

      First, energy efficiency isn’t just about money. You care about the environment, right? Second, I understand that efforts have already been made to correct the problems in Oregon Hall but those have met with disdain rather than appreciation. One need to look no further than Angry Old Lady’s (AOL) comments (“What needs to happen is either drop it to the ground and start over or strip it clean of everything inside and rebuild”) to realize that replacing the windows will not resolve the problem.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Dog says

      Double Pane vinyl windows (and they can open) are very energy efficient. Buildings need to breathe …

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are they energy efficient when they’re open in January to remove the fibers, mold, or whatever it is?

      Buildings can breathe without having windows that open.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The problem isn’t that Oregon Hall can or cannot breath…the problem is that people cannot breath. I have lungs, a nose, this building does not.

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  7. Angry Old Lady says:

    And no

    I AM NOT ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING! If it were you…you would not be laughing either..you would be coughing up a lung trying to breathe.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree with AOL, people in Oregon Hall are suffering. I believe the last thing someone should do is Roll on the Floor Laughing about another person’s sickness. I think that is really mean. Obviously there is a serious problem with Oregon Hall, people have been complaining for years with similar symptoms and people have come and gone, but the complaints continue on. New people, same issues. The only way this problem is going to get solved is if people stand up for themselves and ignore rude comments. If a loved one went through what some OH employees have been through, ROFL, would stop laughing and be just as passionate to solve this problem as we are.

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