March and June meetings of Dave Hubin’s Public Records Administrative Advisory Group

7/23/2014: I thought I’d repost this classic on the meetings of Dave Hubin’s working group to hide public records. From what I can tell this group has now accomplished its mission and is defunct.

6/5/2013 meeting, page down for 3/7/2013 meeting.

Prologue: 

  • Last meeting (see below) was a disaster for Hubin and Thornton, who got raked over the coals and revealed that there were serious problems with the office’s decisions about fee-waivers, bad software, refusal or complete inability to answer questions about policies, inconsistent statements, no decision on the STC recommendation for fee-waivers for student journalists.

Synopsis:

  • Dave didn’t even tell UO’s student-journalists that the meeting was being held, they found out about it from UO Matters.
  • Faculty and students not allowed to ask questions.
  • Thornton killed a bunch of committee time with irrelevant numbers, worked well.
  • No progress on public-interest fee waiver policies. Still a black hole. Thornton’s statements just added to the mystery of what current policy is. Still seems like she has *never* given a full fee-waiver.
  • In Feb the STC voted unanimously to recommend Gottfredson waive fees for student-journalists, up to some reasonable limit, with Hubin to determine what’s reasonable. Gottfredson won’t do it, claims he’s studying the issue. He was provost at UC-I, where there are no fees for anyone (except for computer programming time, if that’s required.) So Gottfredson already knows how well this would work, and he just doesn’t want the students to be able to get information on how UO is spending their money.

Live-blog disclaimer: My opinions on what people said or would have said, if they only had a spine.

Present: Almost none of the PRAAG, which consists of:

  • Barbara Altmann,  Professor  of Romance Languages & Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Dietrich Belitz,  Professor, Physics
  • John Bonine,  Professor, Law
  • Julie Brown,  Senior Director of Communications
  • Stuart Chin,  Assistant Professor, Law, Dean’s designee
  • Tim Gleason, Professor and Dean, School of Journalism and Communication
  • Laura Hinman, ASUO President
  • Dave Hubin, Chair and Convener, Senior Assistant to the President
  • Renee Irvin, Associate Dean for Finance, AAA; Associate Professor, PPPM
  • Orca Merwin, Contracts Specialist, Sponsored Projects Services
  • Jennifer O’Neal, Corrigan Solari University Historian and Archivist, UO Libraries
  • Allie O’Connor, Contracts Manager, Purchasing and Contracting Services
  • Craig Pintens, Sr. Assoc. A.D. for Marketing & Public Relations, Athletics
  • Kim Sheehan, Professor, Journalism & Communication
  • Greg Stripp, Associate Vice President for Administration, Finance and Administration
  • Lisa Thornton, Public Records Officer, Office of Public Records

Those present in bold. Maybe I missed a few silent ones, sorry. Next time speak up.

Three student-journalists from the Emerald and the Commentator. I’d give their names but that would be a FERPA violation. No Paris or Bonine :-(

Hubin: Discussion of annual report. Discussion is only to be among members. No questions from legitimate reporters or from UO Matters. But the meeting is of course public. Although Dave didn’t even tell the reporters about it. They found out from UO Matters.

Thornton: Goes through slides (I’ll post later), describes PR process, describes who requests. She’s astonishingly careful to avoid mentioning my name or UO Matters.

Chin: Who’s a journalist? Thornton: Everyone except of course UO Matters, or websites that have paywalls or subscriptions. That’s going to be news to the NYT.

Gleason: Points out that she means aggregators that just resell data. What’s the nature of the content that’s being requested?

Thornton: Athletics, Randy’s invoices, Robin Holmes’s emails requested by student reporters.

Thornton: Goes over how long it takes.

Hubin: Who on campus is doing a good job?

Thornton: Athletics, BRP. We get ~300 requests a year. Claims respond time is decreasing, but that’s counting mirror requests and so one. Says fee waiver has also improved response time. No fee for requests that take less than an hour of time. 20% fee-waiver for institutional news media.

Belitz: Why 20%?

Thornton: Easy. She will give a bigger waiver if she thinks the documents are in the public interest.

Belitz tries to make sense of the numbers.

Thornton: Sometimes fees are split between requestors. (Really? That’s a policy?). Confused.

Pintens: You don’t charge for redactions, right? Hubin: Right. But Geller charges out the butt for his.

Gleason: What was the most expensive request?

Hubin: $4000, from Nathan Tublitz trying to figure out the administratives raises.

Gleason: How many were withdrawn because the fees scared them off?

Thornton: Hard to say, we do work with them to narrow the request, lower fees. She then tries to explain how she splits fees – tricky.

Hubin: In the STC Margie Paris suggested eliminating fees. Gottfredson asked Hubin what this would cost, so that he can ask his secretive “Budget Advisory Group” what they think. Greg Rikhoff still won’t tell me who is on the BAG or what their charge is. Hilarious.

Gleason: Look at Washington, it’s a no fee state. Hubin: Same for CA, basically.

Chin: Refunds for original requestor if they pay and the others want the documents. Thornton: No.

Goals for coming year: Awareness, post more frequently requested documents, continue hiding things from googlers.

Hubin: About the request for President’s calendar, why is was so complicated: We had to run it by Geller, who claims FERPA requires redacting student names.

5/14/2013 update: I’ve been trying to get a copy of the minutes that Dave Hubin had taken at this meeting of the Public Records Administrative Advisory Group that he and Pres Gottfredson set up to bypass the Senate and subvert shared governance. See below. Ironically, he had the minutes taken because he wanted to persuade me to stop live-blogging – he didn’t even tell me about the first meeting. Nice try. After a month of evasions from Hubin, I made a public records request:

On Monday Apr 29, 2013, at 6:33 PM, Bill Harbaugh wrote:

Hi Lisa,

This is a public records request for a copy of the original raw draft of the minutes of the 3/7/2013 AAG on Public records, as taken down during the meeting. I’ve been trying to get these from Dave Hubin for a month, without success.

I ask for a fee waiver on the basis of the public interest in avoiding the absurdity of charging people to see the minutes of a meeting about charging people to see public records.

Thanks,
Bill Harbaugh
UO Prof of Economics

2 weeks, and still no response. If I don’t get them by tomorrow, I’ll petition the DA. (I got em!)

3/7/2013: Live-blog: Usual disclaimer, this is what I think people said or meant to say or should have said. Turns out I was misinformed about refreshments, sorry Dash.

Synopsis: Randy Geller has PRO Lisa Thornton scared shitless. Today she revealed she bases her fee waiver decisions on whether or not, in her personal judgement, revealing the documents is in the best interests of Eugene’s citizens. But she will not explain her logic for those decisions. Awesome power and responsibility. Even Dave Hubin is getting pissed about the situation. And putative journalism dean Tim Gleason is still using “administrative burden” arguments to justify hiding public records. But John Bonine is on the case, on the side of transparency. I give Geller another two months, tops.

Hubin: There *will* be a written report with recommendations to President Gottfredson, and someone is now taking minutes, besides UO Matters. Dave gives shoutout to the STC for getting the fall 2011 fee-waiver, which Berdahl trashed in April 2012, and which Gottfredson has refused to reinstate, and which UO now uses to delay and frustrate requests, even from student journalists.

Thornton: Complaints were made to the DA about redactions and delays. We then made some de-redactions.

Bonine: Are complaints and ruling on the PRO website? If not why not? Hubin: My legal advice to hide Randy’s PR advice comes from Randy, and it’s a secret. Harbaugh: So secret Lisa even redacted Randy’s name, until the DA called him to the office and told him he had to deredact:

Hubin: This was all prompted by complaint about how we were not justifying fee-waiver denials. I asked Geller, then redacted his opinion because we don’t want people to know our public records policies and procedures. I can’t say if he told me to do that, because then I’d be breaking attorney-client privilege. Bonine: WTF?

Fee waivers: 

Hubin: I believe we are operating within the law, which says “may waive”. But the optics are not good.

Thornton: We apply the three-part test on page 20 which gives us broad discretion to delay and frustrate, and we drive a truck through that. Gleason: Explain.

Thornton: I apply my judgement to ask if the citizen’s of Eugene would benefit from reading about this. (My god). Q: Do you explain your denials? Thornton: No.

Pinten: Can’t you have drop down boxes or something? Thornton: We google the requester to see what they are up to. (My god).

Even Gleason sees this is trouble: “It’s problematic to give you this discretion.” Bonine: Oregon law was based on federal law, which contrasts public benefit with private benefit. Commercial is out. If it’s not just for yourself, it’s public benefit. Gleason: Back on his thing about the burden on the institution. Bonine: First test for public interest, then ask if the extent of those benefits exceeds the cost. Thornton: So I’m going to have to do benefit-cost analysis? Can I hire an economist? Bonine: Not only that, I want you to put your decision and reasons on the web. Provides guidance to requestors, reduces your unbounded authority. Thornton: We do have discussions and back and forth with requesters about public interest.

Harbaugh: No, you don’t. Thornton: Let me backtrack on my previous statement. Geller has advised me not to explain fee waiver denials. Bonine: WTF? Hubin should go back to Geller and change this.

Bonine: There should not be secret law. It is not appropriate for an agency to hide the reasons for a denial. If explanations harm the university, that’s because the university is not behaving well.

Hubin: Is there a consensus that we should give better explanations, and post them? I would have to take that to Geller, and Gottfredson. Bonine: Not appropriate for Geller to hide his opinions – so if we ask this, we want to get his opinion in writing. Hubin: We will write some language for transparency about our denials of fee-waivers for transparency requests.

Recommendation from STC for fee-waiver for student-journalists: 

Hubin: STC voted 3-0 for this, with proviso that requests be reasonable. Gleason: What’s the definition of student-journalist? Pinten: Pandora’s box. Thornton: We use institutionalized media standard. Bonine: Explain those standards and publish them on web? Suppose someone wants the documents to sue UO? Court has ruled that is in the public interest. Gleason: I’m all in favor of fee waivers for student-journalists, I’m just afraid we can’t identify student-journalists. Bonine: When they are doing it to disseminate it publicly or just for your own grade in a class? Pintens: The Emerald makes money: Bonine: Journalism is in the public interest. Period. Hubin: Dash, any thoughts? Dash: Use a broad definition, includes blogs, intermittent publications, etc. Brown: Demonstrate ability to generate readership. Flux has readership, even though also for class credit. Hubin: Transparent checklist. Harbaugh: Implement the STC proposal know, instruct Hubin and Gleason to be “reasonable”. I think you and Lisa can be reasonable. Thornton: But in the real world public records officers are not reasonable – this would be bad training! Hubin: We will not implement the STC policy now, but we will discuss.

Reading Room:

Harbaugh: Currently, the PRO paid $25,000 for software (plus annual maintenance) that is not as transparent as dropbox and Google. Gleason: Back to his administrative burden mantra. This guy is a Journalism dean?

Thornton tries to demonstrate software. Bonine: Just put this on a website. Gleason: But it helps us track the requests. Harbaugh: Use Excel, it’s cheaper.

The End.

3/4/2013: My understanding is that these are public meetings, and that refreshments will be served for all student journalists. Let me know if I got that wrong Dave.

Note that this group is not the Senate Transparency Committee, rather it’s the administration’s effort to deal with the problems the STC has revealed. I’ll try and live-blog it:

TO:         Members of the PRAAG
FROM:  Dave Hubin
Attached is a proposed agenda for the meeting of the Public Records Administrative Advisory Group that will take place this Thursday, March 7th at 4:00 in the Johnson Hall Conference Room.   Lisa and I look forward to our discussion and your counsel.   (I also attached a roster of our membership.)

Dave Hubin
David R. Hubin, Ph.D.

Senior Assistant to the President

University of Oregon 541-346-3036

Agenda:
Public Records Administrative Advisory Group

Agenda for Meeting:  March 7, 2013

4:00 p.m. Johnson Hall Conference Room
Debriefing on two most recent (concluded) appeals to DA’s office
How is this distinction used to determine fee waivers?
Discussion regarding fee waivers for “reasonable” requests from student journalists
Is the current definition of “institutionalized media” fair standard for student journalism?
What is a reasonable request?
Suggestions for additional materials to add to our Public Records Reading Room
Is there information that your department would like to share?

Public Records Administrative Advisory Group:  2012-2013
Barbara Altmann,  Professor  of Romance Languages & Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Dietrich Belitz,  Professor, Physics
John Bonine,  Professor, Law
Julie Brown,  Senior Director of Communications
Stuart Chin,  Assistant Professor, Law, Dean’s designee
Tim Gleason, Professor and Dean, School of Journalism and Communication
Laura Hinman, ASUO President
Dave Hubin, Chair and Convener, Senior Assistant to the President
Renee Irvin, Associate Dean for Finance, AAA; Associate Professor, PPPM
Orca Merwin, Contracts Specialist, Sponsored Projects Services
Jennifer O’Neal, Corrigan Solari University Historian and Archivist, UO Libraries
Allie O’Connor, Contracts Manager, Purchasing and Contracting Services
Craig Pintens, Sr. Assoc. A.D. for Marketing & Public Relations, Athletics
Kim Sheehan, Professor, Journalism & Communication
Greg Stripp, Associate Vice President for Administration, Finance and Administration
Lisa Thornton, Public Records Officer, Office of Public Records

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8 Responses to March and June meetings of Dave Hubin’s Public Records Administrative Advisory Group

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lots of administrators in that advisory group.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    $25,000? For software that does nothing but slow things down? This is the kind of expenditure keeping faculty salaries down.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Naw, its a drop in the bucket compared to what goes to Athletics, administrators, HLGR, etc. And UOPD for SUVs, guns, donuts, etc.

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    • Anonymous says:

      And Huron

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    • Anonymous says:

      A dorp in the bucket, yes, but it rains alot in Oregon.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Clarification please: Are you saying that the fee waiver is not not available to student journalists?

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    • UO Matters says:

      STC voted unanimously to recommend Gottfredson waive fees for student-journalists, up to some reasonable limit, with Hubin to determine what’s reasonable This was back in February. Gottfredson won’t do it, claims he’s studying the issue. He was Provost at UC-I, where there are no fees for anyone except for computer programming time, if that’s required. So he already knows how this would work, he just doesn’t want the students to be able to get information on how UO is spending their money.

      Student-journalists are of course eligible for public-interest fee waivers, which the office almost never gives.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I knew Geller has to make an appearance. FERPA my ass.

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