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.

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Daily Emerald begs for cash to pay Hubin’s fees

6/25/2013: UO’s student-journalists at the Daily Emerald have started a non-profit to raise money to pay the fees UO charges them to see public records about UO. Their explanation is here and the donate button is here. Note that all donations are public. Dave Hubin’s response, in the form of a letter to the ODE Editor, is here:

… We are committed to supporting quality journalism, and as members of the university community, are particularly supportive of the work of students. …

The Oregon Commentator reports similar problems with UO public records here. Apparently UO has prevented them from using student money, appropriated by ASUO for the purpose of buying public records, for paying the $240 President Gottfredson is charging them to see a copy of his official calendar. And the Register Guard had a story last week here, on other UO public records problems. My response to Hubin:

You should be embarrassed by what you’ve said and not said here Dave. And also by what you’ve done, and not done about public records and transparency. 
For starters, you said that the meetings of your PR AAG – which you set up to subvert the Senate Transparency Committee – would be open to the public. But you’ve never even told UO’s student journalists when the PR AAG meetings would be. I found out about them by being persistent, and then told the reporters and posted the times and locations on UO Matters. At the last meeting you wouldn’t even let the student reporters ask questions.

The Senate Transparency Committee recommended fee waivers for UO student journalists in February. You said after the meeting that such a policy would be in place “expeditiously”. You’re still stalling. http://uomatters.com/2013/02/transparency-committee-votes-to-waive.html

Your 72% number for no fees is padded by including the many requests where the PR office simply forwards a link to an existing document. How many times has UO waived fees on the basis of a public interest claim since you’ve been in charge of the PRO office? 

I think the answer is zero. Occasionally you give 20% discounts, if Lisa Thornton likes what she finds when she googles the requester, and decides that the local community should know the information – but the requester often still has to pay hundreds of dollars. For details on the Dec 2012 meeting where we learned how ad hoc her methods were, try here: http://uomatters.com/2013/03/hubins-public-records-group-to-meet-wed.html

You do waive fees for what the office considers to be simple requests. Or should that be “un-embarrassing public records”? Because you’re still stalling and trying to charge the students $240 to see Gottfredson’s official calendar. That’s just bizarre. 

You claim that response times are decreasing. Again, that’s because you include requests for things like coaches contracts, which are online. For anything else, it’s typical to wait two weeks, or longer, to get a response. Often there is no response at all until I petition the DA’s office. And even then responses typically involve a hefty fee and no substantive explanation for the fee-waiver denial. The office gets about 1 request a day – including the trivial ones – and has a budget of $240K and 2-3 staff. They can do better.
You and PR Officer Lisa Thornton attempt to justify these delays and fees for student-journalists by saying that’s the way the real world works, and dealing with these obstructions from their university is helping their education. Insulting.
I know that running the PR Office is not a job that you sought, or enjoy. But you’ve become a hypocrite about it, and you are now far to comfortable and facile with that role.
Bill Harbaugh
UO Economics Professor
UO Matters Editor

Or, as Vladimir Putin recently said, trying to get public records from UO is “like shearing a pig: there’s lots of squealing and little fleece.”

Admin Transparency Group 12/18/12 live-blog

Short version:

This “administrative advisory group” will not even make a written report to Gottfredson. Wouldn’t want to leave a paper trail on their transparency recommendations!

Meanwhile JH is spending tens of thousands of tuition dollars on “Around the O” PR spin, while nickeling and dimeing journalists and bloggers trying to get real information through the public records law. The SD Tribune has a good story on this trend:

There used to be one government PR specialist for every four reporters in America; now the relationship is almost 1-to-1.

But see below – UO’s Journalism Dean Tim Gleason (for a few more months) isn’t worried about the many hundreds of thousands UO spends on PR flacks – he’s worried about how to stop reporters from getting a few $1000 worth of UO public records without fees and delays.

On Roster: (italics if present)

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

Guests: Your blogger and an Anon reporter type, who must have found out about the meeting from this blog, because Hubin sure didn’t tell anyone.

Agenda:
They didn’t send it to me, sorry. Printed copy includes “best practices” stuff, something Kim Sheehan on “public interest”.

Live Notes: Usual disclaimer: My opinions of what people meant, not a quote unless in ” “.
Dave Hubin: Usual pleasantries. 1.5 years working on public records. Charge of this group: This is an AAG, not a committee because we want to cut the faculty and the STC out of things and that requires an end run around Kyr and the Senate.

Dave’s history: PRO formed 2 years ago by Lariviere because Melinda Grier fucked up. Turnaround time is now ~7 days. (Not true for the ones Geller steps on – i.e. everything of interest – those typically take ~30. DOJ says 10 is typically reasonable). Lariviere proposed fee waiver (not true: Senate had asked for this a year prior). Lariviere asked for log of requests and follow-through. (Not true. STC fought for this too.) Hubin says $ limit caused problems, still needed to convert time estimates to $. (How hard is that – it’s multiplication.)

Hubin then switched to one hour. He casts this as efficiency – in practice it lead to a large and noticeable decrease in responsiveness. Additionally, the interim PRO, Lisa Thorton, with Hubin’s blessing, stopped approving any fee waiver requests, a policy which continues to this day unless the requester is able to figure out how to embarrass the administration into it, as UO Matters did with the Oregon Hall air quality docs.

Hubin will not even share the opinion from Randy Geller which purports to justify PR Officer Thornton’s refusal to even explain her fee waiver denials. 

Kim Sheehan: Does the money go back to departments? (Not until UO Matters discovered it wasn’t, now it does.)

Lisa Thornton, PRO: Reviews PRO website, here. Sheehan: No anonymous requests? True – all names except students. Hubin: Good Q for group. We could. Hubin: We would allow this for whistleblowers. (Not true, I’ve tried it).

Dietrich Belitz: Who determines what gets posted automatically? Thornton: It’s only athletics contracts. These and other docs are hidden from Google, by our special $25,000 software, but if I have them and someone somehow finds that out, I send them out.

Hubin: This group could recommend posting more stuff – e.g. contracts over $100K. (Oregon law requires UO to do this annually, but Geller hides a lot anyway.)

Thornton: Comparison of that other AAU’s do. Claims one hour wavier is working – for whom? Still working on the definition of the public interest. Health (aftermath of Oregon Hall air quality fiasco and UO Matters pushing it). Wrongdoing – we waive fees if we think there’s evidence of wrongdoing. Sure you do. 20% discount for “traditional media”.

Rennee Irvin: Union? Not using PR

Tim Gleason: Back to his claim that law allows them to charge fees even when the public is interested. Wow does he have a problem with giving away documents to the public. He’s all about the “burden on the providing organization”. This guy is Dean of Journalism? Not for long it seems.

Hubin: It’s complicated. I’ve got handouts. Including one from John Bonine – I’ll add later.

Belitz: Why not put everything that’s clearly a public record up on the web – e.g. as Portland does with property records. (Many municipalities do this with many things). Hubin: We could do this, do we want to? Q for this group.

Jennifer O’Neal (UO archivist): Retention: State mandates retention schedule for UO docs. As of 3-4 years ago we ran out of space, now take in only after about 15 years. Have a grant to make them available to researchers. These now are getting utilized. We help PRO or work directly with requestors.

Hubin: How good a job are we doing with retention? 

O’Neal: Some dept’s are good, many don’t think about it, have staff. (And some are simply hiding things.)

Hubin: Thanks, that’s it. We’ll use doodle to find a time that we can hide from the public again.

O’Neal: Is this group going to come up with anything tangible, or just meet? (Let me guess – she’s new here.)

Hubin: I might take some of what you say to Gottfredson, I might not. It’s all advisory. Not even a written report!!!