Lane County wants $23K for a simple list of employee salaries

The Op-Ed protesting this is in the RG here, and the requesters have petitioned Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum:

… So we are filing a request for review with the Oregon attorney general. Why? Because 39 local units of Oregon government want to charge us more than $40,100 in special fees just to produce simple records of public employee salaries.

If these units succeed in imposing what is essentially a transparency tax, our organization could face future fees up to $4 million across 1,509 units of government to simply compile a complete record of all government expenditures: salaries, pensions and vendor transactions. Levying extreme fees — a tactic used to keep government spending hidden — is a violation of Oregon’s open records law.

What on earth could Lane County, which wants to charge us $23,000 in fees, be hiding? …

To my knowledge Ellen Rosenblum’s office has only made one order requiring an agency to waive fees for a public records request since she took over from John Kroger in 2012. It was for $2.75, and it was very carefully worded to avoid creating a useful precedent for those trying to get records from the state.

In fact one interpretation of her office’s order is that agencies should *increase* their fees, since the DOJ has ruled that the burden on the agency of waiving small fees is trivial. So it’s good to hear that her office will have another chance to show that they are serious about public records reform.

The DOJ’s full $2.75 Public Records Order is here:

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6 Responses to Lane County wants $23K for a simple list of employee salaries

  1. The cost of privacy says:

    I thought fees were based on cost to produce the records not based on much they want to hide them. As someone who has been a sked to fulfill such requests I feel I should disclose that exactly what information is requested can sometimes balloon the cost of request into the stratosphere – especially when cross referencing between databases is necessary to fulfill a request. If you want to minimize your cost, ask for a single item. Please remember that privacy rules (ACH or banking or HIPAA or FERPA) require that many elements be siloed both in how kept and in who can access. I agree that many requests seems simple and logical but rules and regulations require information be sequestered such that logical requests are problematic.

    I remember my dad visiting me at work and being dumbfounded that we didn’t know how much it cost us to do every transaction we performed but as the person trying to figure that out I could attest that it was a very difficult question to answer.

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    • Inquiring Mind says:

      If you read into what was actually requested, it is NOT just a simple list of employee salaries. Much more detailed and extensive.

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  2. Thomas Hager says:

    I have worked both sides of public records requests as an administrator and an author. My experience is that the issue of response times and fee requests basically comes down to politics. If the presiding admins. want to avoid public scrutiny, they will throttle the flow of information by using “just following the rules” and “we’re understaffed and underfunded” excuses. If they choose instead to open the gates, they will, by using common-sense readings of requests, then responding quickly. It’s not always easy, but it’s not rocket science.

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  3. Plain Interested says:

    Government in general wants to hide employee costs and benefits. I get it; the average private worker makes well less salary and isn’t guaranteed any benefits or treated or protected as well. Until this type of information becomes generally available, public employees may feel underpaid, and private workers may feel screwed, but the information will separate feelings from reality. My feeling; public employees are in LaLa land not to understand the great overall deal that they are getting that is much better than what the private sector gets.

    Reluctance of government to be transparent about wages and benefits works against voting for any kind of taxes.

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    • Dog says:

      Wow

      False words were never spoken:

      “information will separate feelings from reality” – yes of course this is TRUE in a sensible world. We don’t live in that world. Trump support is excellent evidence that the only thing that matters is feelings, fuck data (information) …

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    • mgt woes says:

      This is highly dependent on the market an individual employee is in. If you are talking executive staff sure but regular classified staff there is significant variation on how close we are too the market rates even with benefits accounted for.

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