Oregon Public Records Czar resigns, tells off Governor Brown

I can hear the champagne corks popping in Johnson Hall. Jennifer McCall tried hard to improve the state’s transparency problems and had some success. Apparently a little too much success. From Nigel Jaquiss in WWeek:

… In a separate letter to Brown, McCall was more forthcoming about the reason for her surprise resignation. Here is the key section of that letter, which WW obtained under a public records request:

 

I do not think that the staff of the Governor’s Office and I can reconcile our visions regarding the role of the Public Records Advocate. When I accepted this job, it was with the understanding that the Office of the Public Records Advocate was to operate with a high degree of independence and had a mandate to serve the public interest. That is an understanding that I believe the public, the Legislature, and the Public Records Advisory Council share.

 

Meetings with the Governor’s General Counsel and staff have made it clear, however, that the Governor’s staff do not share that view. I have received meaningful pressure from the Governor’s General Counsel to represent the Governor’s Office’s interests on the Public Records Advisory Council, even when those interests conflict with the will of the Council and the mandate of the Office of the Public Records Advocate. I have not only been pressured in this direction but I have been told that I should represent these interests while not telling anyone that I am doing so. I believe these actions constituted an abuse of authority on the part of the General Counsel, and are counter to the transparency and accountability mission that I was hired to advance.

 

While I have always endeavored to work collaboratively with all offices of government, I believe strongly that independence is both essential to the effectiveness of the Office of the Public Records Advocate and enshrined in the law. However, if I am incorrect regarding the legal basis of the Advocate’s independence, then the Advocate’s responsibility to represent the interests of the Governor’s office should be acknowledged before the public and the Council. If the Advocate were to represent the interests of an elected official while allowing the Council and the public to believe that she is acting independently, that would be both unethical and particularly inappropriate for an office that was founded to promote transparency.

 

(Brown’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment)

McCall, whom Gov. Kate Brown hired last year to be the state’s first public records advocate, came to Oregon in the wake of a scandal that ended the political career of former Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2015.

Her assignment was to help make state and local government more transparent by mediating disputes over public records; providing training and education about public records and leading the governor’s newly-formed Public Records Advisory Council.

Oregon’s Public Records Law says that, with some exceptions, all documents in the government’s possession belong to Oregonians and are subject to inspection by the public, including the media.

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5 Responses to Oregon Public Records Czar resigns, tells off Governor Brown

  1. Transparently Opaque says:

    I like the part where the governor is mad because she was forced to openly oppose the open government bill that she was hoping to set up for local government lobbyists to backstab without her fingerprints on the knife. Oh, and also where she has her lawyer press to make the open government advocate oppose open government so she doesn’t have to openly oppose open government.

    • uomatters says:

      Yeah – and then she appoints him as a Judge on the State Court of Appeals as thanks. Say, according to wikipedia the Republican Secretary of State Bev Clarno is next in the line of succession. As I recall a public records scandal is just how former Secretary of State Brown ended up as our governor.

      • Geezer Duck says:

        Bev Clarno was appointed Secretary of State, not elected. Does being appointed Secretary of State disqualify her from being next in line to the governor’s office?

        • Fishwrapper says:

          Article V, Section 8a, appears to say that a person appointed to fill a vacancy in one of the offices that would be tapped to fill a gubernatorial vacancy, “…shall not be eligible to succeed to the office of Governor by automatic succession under this section during the term of his appointment.”

          Yes, it says “his” in the Constitution, so let’s have at it, shall we…?

          • uomatters says:

            Nice find. Next in line is *elected* Oregon Treasurer Tobias Reed. His wikipedia page notes:

            After attending high school in Idaho, he moved to Oregon where he attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.[2] where he graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in politics and economics.[2] That year he started working for Nike, Inc. in footwear development, where he remained until 2012,[2] save for working at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as an aide to then Secretary Lawrence Summers from 1999 to 2001.

            Larry Summers is an economist’s economist. I have a two-hour lecture in my behavioral economics course, on “Why Larry Summers keeps getting fired: A cautionary tale for economists”.

            I’ve never met Mr. Reed, but from his electoral success I’m guessing he is more than just an economist.

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