UO public records backlog grows – but UO lawyer Kevin Reed gets my free speech emails for free and on time

Sorry, long post.

The UO Public Records Office currently has many unfilled requests for public documents, going back as far as August. They haven’t yet filled any of the requests they’ve received since January 17, more than a month ago, except for boilerplate requests for coaches contracts or directories. The Oregon DOJ says two weeks should generally be enough time to provide public records to the public.

The one exception is General Counsel Kevin Reed’s request for my emails as UO Senate President. He emailed me that request the evening of Jan 16th. I sent him a follow-up asking for clarification, and 3 days after receiving that I sent him all the requested emails at no charge – including those responsive to his rather chilling new request:

“Please share any communications you have had with persons associated with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the past 12 months, made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate or member of any of its committees,  which communications relate to or concern freedom of speech or academic freedom at the University of Oregon.”

Despite my cooperation, Reed tried to convince the PR Officer – who works for him – that I’d tried to hide something. She wouldn’t buy it, and last night she updated the log entry to show that I’d provided the records: Those email exchanges are at the bottom of this post.

The rest of the PR log shows how slow the office is generally. Unfortunately UO does not show the fees they are imposing:

Public Requests Record Log

Request Date Title Requester Status
02/20/2017 Salary Data Thornberry, Max Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/20/2017 Documents Graff, Eli Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/20/2017 Grade distribution Johnson, Donna Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/20/2017 Contract Green, Cooper Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/20/2017 Citations Green, Cooper Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/17/2017 Contract Byrd, Colin Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/17/2017 Records Rubbelke, Nathan Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/17/2017 Payments Meek, Austin Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/16/2017 RFPs McGraw, Noah Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/15/2017 RFPs, scoresheet Wilson, Hayley Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/14/2017 Procurement Sessa, Jacqueline Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/13/2017 Contract Thornberry, Max Records Provided
02/13/2017 Financial Records Berkowitz, Steve Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/13/2017 Stale dated checks Lazar, Michael Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/13/2017 Directory Information Nichols, Kylie Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/09/2017 Contract Fagan, Michael Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/09/2017 Contract Sessa, Jacqueline Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/09/2017 Proposals Dietz, Diane Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/09/2017 Procedures Mitchell, Connor Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/08/2017 Contract Walsh, Cavan Records Provided
02/07/2017 Proposals Dietz, Diane Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/07/2017 Proposals Yrazabal, Jeff Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/07/2017 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/06/2017 Correspondence Blutstein, Allan Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/06/2017 RFPs Schreck, Andy Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/06/2017 RFPs Schneider, Joe Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/06/2017 Report Nguyen, Tran Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/06/2017 Agreement Meek, Austin Records Exempt From Disclosure
02/06/2017 Correspondence Greif, Andrew Records Exempt From Disclosure
02/06/2017 Agreement Greif, Andrew Records Exempt From Disclosure
02/06/2017 Agreement Jacoby, Kenneth Records Exempt From Disclosure
02/03/2017 Contracts Cohen, Kevin Records Provided
02/03/2017 Proposals Fuller, Tami Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/02/2017 Contract Nguyen, Tran No Responsive Records
02/01/2017 Proposals Westcott, Janice Requesting/Reviewing Records
02/01/2017 Proposals Jones, Laura Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/31/2017 RFPs, scoresheet Kennedy, Phil Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/30/2017 Contract Maier, John Records Provided
01/27/2017 Contracts Kanter, Richard Records Provided
01/27/2017 Stale dated checks Carlucci, Christopher Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/26/2017 Records Pitcher, Jack Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/25/2017 Scholarship values Pitcher, Jack Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/25/2017 Qualifications and resume Solomon, Jon Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/25/2017 Correspondence Moskovitz, Diana Records Exempt From Disclosure
01/25/2017 Directory Information Parsi, Arash Records Provided
01/24/2017 Fund Allocation Sanchez-Rutledge Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/24/2017 RFPs Van Dyk, Andrew Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/23/2017 Expenditures Hill, Toni Awaiting Payment
01/23/2017 Proposals Klau, Monica Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/23/2017 Contract Shaw, Dana Records Provided
01/23/2017 Bid results Wolff, Roger Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/22/2017 Correspondence Reed, Kevin Records Provided
01/19/2017 Records and correspondence Thornberry, Max Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/19/2017 Documents Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/19/2017 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/18/2017 Records Jacoby, Kenneth Records Exempt From Disclosure
01/18/2017 Contract Byrd, Colin Records Provided
01/18/2017 Directory Information Lee, Garrett Records Provided
01/17/2017 Contract Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/17/2017 Documents Dietz, Diane Records Provided
01/17/2017 Documents Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
01/17/2017 Contract Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/13/2017 Contracts Byrd, Colin Records Provided
01/13/2017 Contract Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/13/2017 Contracts Thorburn, Ryan Records Provided
01/12/2017 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
01/12/2017 Contracts Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
01/12/2017 Contracts Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
01/11/2017 Contract Rote, Kyle Records Provided
01/11/2017 Report Hemphill-Haley, Ethan Requesting/Reviewing Records
01/11/2017 Revenue Field, Andrew Records Provided
01/11/2017 Contract Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/11/2017 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
01/11/2017 Contract Reed, Tarah Awaiting Payment
01/11/2017 Contract Baumbach, Jim Records Provided
01/11/2017 Records Pitcher, Jack Records Exempt From Disclosure
01/09/2017 Publication Byrd, Colin Records Provided
01/06/2017 Grade distribution Gilley, Bruce Records Provided
01/06/2017 Publication Byrd, Colin Records Provided
01/05/2017 Contract Greif, Andrew Records Provided
01/03/2017 RFPs McGraw, Noah Request Withdrawn
01/03/2017 RFQs Poole, Sabina Requesting/Reviewing Records
12/29/2016 Contracts Greif, Andrew Records Provided
12/29/2016 Contract Thorburn, Ryan Records Provided
12/28/2016 RFQs Richardson, McKenzie Requesting/Reviewing Records
12/23/2016 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
12/22/2016 Analyses Idsvoog, Karl Records Provided
12/22/2016 Invoices Walsh, James Records Exempt From Disclosure
12/19/2016 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
12/19/2016 Contracts Greif, Andrew Records Provided
12/19/2016 Contract Byrd, Colin Records Provided
12/16/2016 Contract Byrd, Colin Records Provided
12/16/2016 Contract Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
12/14/2016 Contract Smith, AJ Records Provided
12/13/2016 Contracts Kish, Matthew Records Provided
12/13/2016 Purchase orders Shaw, Bruce Awaiting Payment
12/12/2016 RFP Westcott, Janice Records Provided
12/12/2016 RFP Westcott, Janice Records Provided
12/09/2016 Salary Data Acker, Lizzy Records Provided
12/07/2016 Itinerary Simantel, Eric Request Withdrawn
12/07/2016 Contract Simantel, Eric Request Withdrawn
12/07/2016 Contract Byrd, Colin Records Provided
12/06/2016 Financial Records Jacoby, Kenneth Request Withdrawn
12/06/2016 Contract Dodson, Joshua Records Provided
12/05/2016 Correspondence Jennings, Chantel Records Provided
12/05/2016 Correspondence Appleby, Keith Awaiting Payment
12/01/2016 Correspondence Silberman, Daniel Records Provided
12/01/2016 Contracts Reed, Tarah No Responsive Records
11/30/2016 Correspondence Alger, Tyson Requesting/Reviewing Records
11/28/2016 Itinerary Alger, Tyson Records Provided
11/28/2016 Statistics Fischer, Maggie No Responsive Records
11/28/2016 RFP Koch, Heidi Records Provided
11/28/2016 Contracts Greif, Andrew Records Provided
11/28/2016 Contracts Cohen, Kevin Records Provided
11/28/2016 Payments Jennings, Chantel No Responsive Records
11/28/2016 Contract Meek, Austin No Responsive Records
11/28/2016 Occupation data Morgan, Willie No Responsive Records
11/28/2016 Financial Records Novy-Williams, Eben Records Provided
11/23/2016 Reports Greif, Andrew Awaiting Payment
11/22/2016 Contracts Drimmer, Bryan Records Provided
11/22/2016 Contracts Drimmer, Bryan Records Provided
11/21/2016 Contract Levine, Jeffrey Records Provided
11/21/2016 Records Hawthorne, Jonathan Requesting/Reviewing Records
11/21/2016 Attrition records Fischer, Maggie No Responsive Records
11/21/2016 Faculty demographic data Alvarado, Karen Requesting/Reviewing Records
11/18/2016 Personnel Appleby, Keith No Responsive Records
11/18/2016 Contract Halliday, Marie Records Provided
11/17/2016 Email Jacoby, Kenneth Records Exempt From Disclosure
11/16/2016 Records Nguyen, Tran Records Exempt From Disclosure
11/16/2016 Records Nguyen, Tran Records Exempt From Disclosure
11/16/2016 Employee Information Theen, Andrew Records Provided
11/15/2016 Report Pitcher, Jack Records Exempt From Disclosure
11/15/2016 Email Theen, Andrew Records Provided
11/15/2016 Title IX complaints Theen, Andrew Requesting/Reviewing Records
11/15/2016 Report Pitcher, Jack Records Exempt From Disclosure
11/11/2016 Contract Johnson, Mark Records Provided
11/10/2016 RFP Kennedy, Phil Records Provided
11/10/2016 Email Jacoby, Kenneth Awaiting Payment
11/10/2016 Contracts Dolisi, Joseph Records Provided
11/09/2016 Stale dated checks London, Jeffrey Records Provided
11/08/2016 Law Documents Harbaugh, Bill Records Provided
11/03/2016 RFP and budget Graziano, Greg Records Provided
11/03/2016 Archives Hawthorne, Jonathan Requesting/Reviewing Records
11/02/2016 Sports camps Berkowitz, Steve Records Provided
11/02/2016 Grade distribution Johnson, Donna Request Withdrawn
11/02/2016 Records Theen, Andrew No Responsive Records
11/02/2016 Audits Thornberry, Max Awaiting Payment
10/31/2016 Documents Lockwood, Kat Records Provided
10/27/2016 RFPs, scoresheets Dunaway, Derek Requesting/Reviewing Records
10/25/2016 Records Parker, Haley Records Provided
10/25/2016 Correspondence Greif, Andrew Awaiting Payment
10/24/2016 Contracts Jacoby, Kenneth Records Provided
10/21/2016 Agreement Thornberry, Max No Responsive Records
10/20/2016 RFP award information Sessa, Jacqueline Request Withdrawn
10/20/2016 Invoices Pitcher, Jack Records Provided
10/20/2016 Meeting Materials Poole, Sabina Request Withdrawn
10/19/2016 RFQs Bhawal, Biplab Records Provided
10/17/2016 Reports Pitcher, Jack Records Provided
10/17/2016 Directory Information Garcia, Miguel Awaiting Payment
10/14/2016 Administrative expenses Stewart, Hannah Awaiting Payment

 

10/14/2016 Contracts Hadar, Roey Records Provided
10/13/2016 Expense Reports Kiley, Zachary Awaiting Payment
10/13/2016 Proposals Pratt, Gwen Records Provided
10/11/2016 Salary Data Kenoyer, Kelly Awaiting Payment
10/07/2016 Reports Nguyen, Tran Records Provided
10/07/2016 Invoices Greer, Jeff Records Provided
10/07/2016 Contract Rudiger, Kevin Records Provided
10/05/2016 Correspondence Blutstein, Allan Awaiting Payment
10/05/2016 Contracts Garfein, Richard Records Provided
10/05/2016 Contracts Kelley, Kevin No Responsive Records
10/05/2016 Directory Information Ho, Anida Awaiting Payment
10/04/2016 Contracts Reed, Tarah Records Provided
09/30/2016 Report Nguyen, Tran Records Exempt From Disclosure
09/30/2016 Outdated Vendor Checks Minotti, Anthony Records Provided
09/30/2016 Correspondence Brown, Matt Records Provided
09/29/2016 Contracts Rogers, Kendall Records Provided
09/29/2016 Grade distribution Campbell, Will Records Provided
09/15/2016 Contract and correspondence Scher, Todd Awaiting Payment
09/15/2016 Email Frisch, Deborah Awaiting Payment
09/12/2016 RFP and budget Lewis, Christian Records Provided
09/08/2016 Real estate documents Frisch, Deborah Awaiting Payment
09/06/2016 Personnel records Capriel, Joanathan No Responsive Records
09/06/2016 Personnel records Frisch, Deborah No Responsive Records
09/06/2016 Responses Theen, Andrew Records Provided
09/02/2016 RFPs, scoresheet Wright, Julia Records Provided
09/02/2016 RFPs, scoresheet Wright, Julia Records Provided
09/01/2016 RFPs, scoresheet Lewis, Christian No Responsive Records
09/01/2016 University purchasing Deleoian, Ken Awaiting Payment
09/01/2016 Payment bond Carpenter, Brent No Responsive Records
08/30/2016 Expenditures Patterson, Craig Request Withdrawn
08/29/2016 Report Nguyen, Tran No Responsive Records
08/26/2016 Records Ackerman, Linda Requesting/Reviewing Records
08/26/2016 Report Nguyen, Tran Records Exempt From Disclosure
08/25/2016 RFPs, scoresheet Lewis, Christian Records Provided
08/24/2016 Contracts Roussel, Pete Records Provided
08/19/2016 Contracts Sessa, Jacqueline Records Provided
08/17/2016 Records Duncan, Andrew Records Provided
08/16/2016 Contracts Greif, Andrew Records Provided
08/10/2016 Contracts Cohen, Kevin Records Provided
08/08/2016 Game Contracts Kelley, Kevin Records Provided

On ThursdayFeb 2, 2017, at 10:42 AM, pubrec@uoregon.edu wrote:

2/2/2017

Hi Professor Harbaugh,

I’m writing to follow up on the email I sent you on 1/24, regarding Kevin Reed’s request for “…all communications made in in the past 12 months, between the current chair of the Senate Transparency Committee and members of the committee concerning the business of this committee, as well as all communications between the Chair of the STC and any members of the media concerning or mentioning the committee”. The full language of the request is below:

 “Please consider this a request, under the Oregon Public Records Law, of all communications made in in the past 12 months, between the current chair of the Senate Transparency Committee and members of the committee concerning the business of this committee, as well as all communications between the Chair of the STC and any members of the media concerning or mentioning the committee.”

As I mentioned previously, all we need is an estimate of how long it will take you (or someone else) to find, gather, and send any responsive records to our office. If someone else will do the work, please send their name so we can form an accurate estimate. There is no need to send any documents at this time; however, if gathering and sending the records will take less than one hour the office asks that you provide the records at your nearest convenience.

Thanks for your assistance, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Lisa

Office of Public Records
University of Oregon
Office of the General Counsel
6207 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-6207
541-346-6823
pubrec@uoregon.edu

I asked for clarification:

From: Bill Harbaugh
Date: Friday, February 3, 2017 at 11:17 AM
To: Kevin Reed
Cc: Public Record Requests
Subject: Re: Public Records – Request for Documents 2017-PRR-172

Dear General Counsel Reed – 

Two clarifying questions for you:

1) Does your request for 

 all communications between the Chair of the STC and any members of the media concerning or mentioning the committee

includes any such communications from my non-UO hosted email accounts, or texts on my personal phone?

2) When you say “any members of the media”, are you including my communications with bloggers, and organizations such as SPLC and FIRE?

Thanks,
Bill Harbaugh, 
Economics Prof & Senate Pres, University of Oregon, http://senate.uoregon.edu

General Counsel Reed clarified and expanded his request:

On FridayFeb 3, 2017, at 3:04 PM, Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu> wrote:

Senate President Harbaugh:

In answer to your questions:

1)  I seek all communications concerning or mentioning the STC you made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate (Vice President, President or member or Chair of the STC), regardless of which media or device you sued for your communication.  

2)  No.  I do not believe FIRE or SPLC qualify as “media.”  If it helps in narrowing the search, please feel free to limit my request to communications with reporters, editors or other personnel associated with the Register Guard, the Oregonian, the Daily Emerald, The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed.

But, given that you have shared that you correspond with FIRE, I will make the additional request under the Oregon Public Records Law:

Please share any communications you have had with persons associated with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the past 12 months, made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate or member of any of its committees,  which communications relate to or concern freedom of speech or academic freedom at the University of Oregon.

Kevin S. Reed | Vice President and General Counsel

Office of the General Counsel

219 Johnson Hall | Eugene, OR 97403-1226

(541) 346-3082 | ksreed@uoregon.edu

I sent Reed the documents:

From: UO Senate President <senatepres@uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Public Records – Request for Documents 2017-PRR-172
Date: February 6, 2017 at 12:26:36 PM PST
To: Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu>
Cc: Lisa Thornton <pubrec@uoregon.edu>, Chris Sinclair <csinclai@uoregon.edu>, Scott R Maier <smaier@uoregon.edu>, Brent Walth <bwalth@uoregon.edu>, Gina Psaki <gpsaki@gmail.com>, Dianne Dugaw <dugaw@uoregon.edu>

Dear GC Reed – 

The attached folder has the public records you requested. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Bill Harbaugh, Senate President, Economics Professor, University of Oregon

I wrote to Reed and the PRO office, asking that hey correct the log to make clear that I’d sent the documents:

From: UO Senate President [mailto:senatepres@uoregon.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 11:48 AM
To: Lisa Thornton <lthorn@uoregon.edu>
Cc: Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu>
Subject: Fwd: Public Records – Request for Documents 2017-PRR-172

Dear Public Records Officer Thornton – 

I’m writing to ask that you correct the public records log at http://publicrecords.uoregon.edu/content/correspondence-19 which currently reads

Correspondence

Requester: Reed, Kevin

Organization: Private

Initial Request Date: 01/22/2017

Status: Requesting/Reviewing Records

Please consider this a request, under the Oregon Public Records Law, of all communications made in in the past 12 months, between the current chair of the Senate Transparency Committee and members of the committee concerning the business of this committee, as well as all communications between the Chair of the STC and any members of the media concerning or mentioning the committee.

Corrections:

1) As you can see in the emails below, GC Reed made these requests in his official capacity as University of Oregon GC, not as “Private”.

2) As you can see in the emails below, GC Reeds request evolved over time, and I believe the log should show the final actual request.

3) As you can see in the emails below, I have provided the documents that GC requested in that final request, and the log should note this. 

Thanks, 

Bill Harbaugh, Senate President Economics Professor University of Oregon

GC Reed responded by ignoring my point that he had made the requests in his official capacity and doubting I had done this and demanding I explain what exemptions I’d used:

On FridayFeb 17, 2017, at 2:48 PM, Kevin Reed <ksreed@uoregon.edu> wrote:

PRO Thornton:

Here is what Mr. Harbaugh said about his production on his blog:

“OK, so I might have left out a few emails with reporters.”

Unless he is prepared to describe the exemptions under the Oregon Public Records law on which he relied to withhold responsive emails, and unless you concur that those exemptions justify the withholding,  I think it would be inaccurate to say that he responded to my request.

Should you need any guidance on the interpretation of the PRL as it relates to exemptions, please consult with Doug Park or Bryan Dearinger.

Thank you.

219 Johnson Hall | Eugene, OR 97403-1226

(541) 346-3082 | ksreed@uoregon.edu

generalcounsel.uoregon.edu

I responded to PRO Thornton, explaining that General Counsel Reed was confused:

From: UO Senate President [mailto:senatepres@uoregon.edu]
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2017 4:33 PM
To: Lisa Thornton <lthorn@uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: Public Records – Request for Documents 2017-PRR-172

Dear Ms Thornton:

General Counsel Reed’s PR request, as he clarified it on Feb 3, asked me for

“all communications concerning or mentioning the STC you made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate (Vice President, President or member or Chair of the STC)”

and

“any communications you have had with persons associated with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the past 12 months, made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate or member of any of its committees,  which communications relate to or concern freedom of speech or academic freedom at the University of Oregon.”

(emphasis added). As I wrote to him and to you on Feb 14th,

I responded to this on Feb 6th, ccing Thornton, with a folder which I believe contains all the relevant emails. There are no relevant texts.

I am not claiming any exemptions under the PR law. I’m not sure why he thinks my blog comment suggests that I’ve done so, or why he thinks my blog is relevant at all to this request. Please update the Public Records log to reflect that this PR request was made by GC Reed in his official capacity, and that the request has been satisfied.

Thank you,

Bill Harbaugh, Senate President, Economics Professor, University of Oregon

And Ms Thornton promptly and helpfully responded by correcting the log.

She also introducing the novel argument that because UO’s interpretation of state law requires requests come from private citizens, Reed must have been acting as such, even though he used his official UO email and title, etc:

2/20/2017

Professor Harbaugh 

As you know, the office has a long practice of holding that employees of a public body cannot make public records requests of the public body they work for. As such, Mr. Reed’s public records request was made in his capacity as a private citizen, just as your public records requests are make in your capacity as a private citizen, rather than a professor.

Additionally, I specifically asked you to provide responsive records to the office. We ask that you (and anyone providing records responsive to a public records request) do this to ensure the records are responsive, and that information that is exempt from disclosure is not inadvertently provided to the requestor. In reviewing the records you provided Mr. Reed I noted they contained personal contact information, which may be exempt from disclosure. Providing the records to the office, rather than directly to the requestor, would have prevented that information from being released. It is also unusual for the office to have received the records in .PDFs. The office prefers to receive responsive records in their native format, and requests that you provide any future records to the office in their native format.

I appreciate your assertion that you have provided all of the records responsive to Mr. Reed’s requests for “all communications made in in the past 12 months, between the current chair of the Senate Transparency Committee and members of the committee concerning the business of this committee, as well as all communications between the Chair of the STC and any members of the media concerning or mentioning the committee.”, later clarified to “all communications concerning or mentioning the STC you made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate (Vice President, President or member or Chair of the STC)” and defining requested members of the media to be “…communications with reporters, editors or other personnel associated with the Register Guard, the Oregonian, the Daily Emerald, The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed.”

I also appreciate you advising the office that you have provided all of the records responsive to Mr. Reed’s request for  “any communications you have had with persons associated with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the past 12 months, made in your capacity as an officer of the University Senate or member of any of its committees,  which communications relate to or concern freedom of speech or academic freedom at the University of Oregon.”

When there is doubt as to whether all records have been provided in response to a request the office makes a practice of confirming with the office or employee who assisted the office that all records were indeed given to the office in response to the request. The office appreciates that you have now confirmed that you have provided the entirety of the records responsive to Mr. Reed’s request, and I will now close this matter.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Lisa Thornton, Public Records Officer

UO Media Relations can’t help RG with request for PERS info

It takes our well paid army of PR flacks more than a week to get UO’s payroll numbers? Saul Hubbard’s story on PERS costs is here:

… The Register-Guard requested budget figures from the cities of Eugene and Springfield, Lane County government, the Eugene 4J, Bethel and Springfield school districts, the Eugene Water & Electric Board, the University of Oregon and Lane Community College to try and estimate how the new PERS rates would affect their budgets — and ultimately taxpayers — starting next summer. Those numbers contain certain assumptions for all agencies: that the size of their workforces will stay relatively flat and that employee wages will grow at historical rates.

According to those projections, PERS costs for the eight agencies that responded will grow by $18.25 million in the first year of the rate increases. The city of Eugene and the Eugene 4J School District, with the two largest workforces, face the biggest cost increases: $4.1 million and $4.4 million, respectively. For other agencies: Springfield Public Schools will face $2.67 million in additional PERS costs; Lane County will face $2.2 million; Bethel School District will face $1.6 million; the city of Springfield will face $1.33 million and EWEB will face $1.1 million.

Lane Community College officials declined to provide an estimate of the college’s 2017-18 payroll — which would have provided a more realistic look at its added costs — but said that its PERS costs would grow by $856,000 if the college’s new higher PERS rate was applied to its current year payroll.

The University of Oregon didn’t provide any budgetary information by Monday’s deadline, a week after the request originally was made. …

On the public records front, some interesting other ones in the log, here:

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-8-27-26-pm

 

AG Ellen Rosenblum’s DOJ reverses Hardy Myers on public record fees

But just a little. The Bend Bulletin has the story here:

The Oregon Department of Justice on Monday lifted an order requiring some state agencies to charge the public for government records, overturning its own 14-year-old advice.

Deputy Attorney General Frederick Boss ruled that the Public Employees Retirement System declined to reduce or waive a fee it charged a journalist seeking records based on a 2002 DOJ order the agency no longer believes is valid.

Boss said in his opinion that PERS may be “legally required” to waive or reduce fees for public records, a reversal of the agency’s 2002 order, issued under former Attorney General Hardy Myers, that said it was required to charge full price for records requests.

“Although a public body enjoys discretion with respect to whether to grant or deny fee waivers and reductions, that discretion is not unlimited,” Boss wrote. “In some circumstances, waiver or reduction can be legally required.

There are many ways that that Rosenblum’s office can increase state transparency using opinions like this – if she really wants to. The DOJ order from last year requiring the OPBE to waive a $2.50 fee they tried to impose is here. As you can see it was very narrowly written, to avoid creating a precedent in favor of public access,  and apparently it is still the only opinion her DOJ has ever written *requiring* a fee waiver.

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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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Multnomah County DA must pay $16K for hiding public records

The Oregonian has the story here:

A judge has ordered the Multnomah County district attorney’s office to pay nearly $16,000 to cover legal fees stemming from a public records dispute last year.

Attorney Scott Upham sought records related to the district attorney’s investigation into charges of sexual assault against Portland tech entrepreneur Scott Kveton. Upham, a former Washington County district attorney, is now a pugnacious civil lawyer who has aggressively sought public records for documents related to his cases – sometimes raising the ire of prosecutors and other other government attorneys.

A Multnomah County grand jury declined in 2014 to indict Kveton, but Upham – acting on behalf of the woman who brought the accusations – sought the records as she pursued a civil case against Kveton. (The woman and Kveton ultimately resolved the case with an out-of-court agreement. The Oregonian/OregonLive is not naming the woman because she claims to be a victim of sexual assault.)

… Under a “catalyst theory” of the law, Upham said, the court concluded his client is entitled to attorney fees because of the role her lawsuit played in prompting the records’ release. He said that could prompt government offices to be more open initially in responding to public records requests, because they could be stuck with a legal bill – even if they voluntarily release the documents later.

“Hopefully this will persuade more agencies to not play these games anymore,” Upham said.

Deputy district attorney Jeff Howes said his office will not appeal the order but declined further comment.

UO Public Records Office needs help complying with state & fed law

You don’t think? The job ad is here:

  • Ensures compliance with state & fed law in regards to existing policies
  • Coordinate and consult with University offices, departments, units and programs regarding their records management compliance issues (litigation, public records requests, audits, records retention scheduling, essential records scheduling and similar services);
  • Candidates should exhibit a strong user focus and public service orientation, excellent analytical, interpersonal skills, and an ability to embrace and spearhead change

The webpage of UO’s broken PRO is here.

Systematic statewide abuse of Oregon public records laws thwarts the people’s right to know

That’s the headline from the excellent, long report by Alex Cippolle in the Eugene Weekly here. The synopsis?

This story begins with a simple request for information. Before long, it veers into murky waters about freedom of information and the public trust, and potential violations of both in Eugene and statewide.

The story ends in a snarl of unfortunate answers with, perhaps, a shard of hope.

Little did we know that one narrow request would end with a tumble down the rabbit hole into the absurd world of public records law in Oregon, leaving us with the question: Do you, as a citizen in a democracy, have the right to know?

One snippet:

“It’s getting worse all the time,” [UO Journalism professor Brent Walth] says. “I’ve yet to see an Attorney General since [Dave] Frohnmayer who was serious about enforcing the spirit of the public records law. That sends a loud message across all state and local government that if you want to hide something, you can do it.”

Bill Harbaugh — University of Oregon economics professor, author of UO watchdog blog UO Matters and public records advocate — recalls Frohnmayer’s tenure as AG fondly as well.

“He was very enthusiastic about enforcing the law,” Harbaugh says. “He would tell state agencies, ‘Jump to it.’”

Of course his attitude changed when people were asking for his records! Another:

[Public Records attorney Dave Bahr] and Walth say that Oregon public officials systematically shut down fee waiver requests as a way to prevent potentially embarrassing or unscrupulous information from getting out.

In the spirit of OPRA, however, it is the recommended practice to waive fees if the request is deemed in the public interest. And, Bahr adds, the law as it was intended favors giving access to the media and research groups, as they help communities disseminate information.

Kron of the attorney general’s office says that, in most cases, public records requests submitted by the media are considered in the public interest.

“I think most people would agree that if a reporter is making a request for records related to a story that they’re working on to publish in the paper,” he tells EW, “that that would certainly meet the public interest.”

UO Public Records Office doesn’t think the public has an interest in Bias Response docs?

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the story here:

University of Oregon on ‘Bias Response Team’: Nothing to See Here

By May 27, 2016

This month, a number of commentators have criticized the University of Oregon’s (UO’s) bias incident reporting system—an online tool to report perceived incidents of “bias” to campus administrators—and some of the university’s “Bias Response Team’s” (BRT’s) responses to those reports. In March, FIRE filed a public records request with UO, seeking documents about students’ complaints and whether the BRT’s handling of those complaints has the potential to chill or infringe on First Amendment rights.

UO, however, is resisting public scrutiny.

In its response on April 1, 2016, the university told FIRE that it would not benefit the public to produce records relating to how they respond to what students perceive to be offensive speech. FIRE has asked UO to reverse its position and produce the records in a letter sent to the university this week. …

In a nutshell, while the UO administration is happy spending our student’s tuition money on the administrators who run the Bias Response Team, they want to charge FIRE $1,483.30 for documents that might help the public learn what it is those administrators are doing.

Under Oregon’s public records law UO must justify its decision to refuse FIRE’s request for a public interest fee-waver. UO General Counsel Kevin Reed thinks this boiler-plate satisfies the law:

You requested a waiver based on an assertion that release of these documents is in the public interest. The office has performed the three­ part analysis of your request, has determined that your request does not meet the public interest test, and has exercised its discretion to deny your request for a fee waiver.

FIRE disagrees. So do I. Here’s hoping FIRE takes it to court and the judge disagrees too.

Federal Court rules students should get fee-waivers for public records

UO’s public records office routinely uses fees and delays to frustrate the intent of Oregon’s public records law, aided by the desultory enforcement efforts of the local DA and the Oregon DOJ. UO even charges its own student journalists fees, and refuses to let them use ASUO i-fee money to pay those fees.

The federal government is much more reasonable about fees – I get anautomatic waiver up to $250, as a blogger, and so do student reporters. And now the D.C. Circuit courts has significantly expanded fee-waiver for students.  Frank Lo Monte has the news here:

… When a requester asks a federal agency to produce documents, the government normally is allowed to charge hourly fees for the time spent finding and reviewing the documents. But the federal FOIA statute limits what agencies can charge “educational institutions” to just the actual cost of making copies.

University of Virginia graduate student Kathryn Sack, aggrieved by a $900 bill from the Pentagon to locate records needed for her doctoral research, insisted that the “educational institution” discount should apply to her. A U.S. district judge disagreed, but on Friday, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled in Sack’s favor.

“If teachers can qualify for reduced fees, so can students,” Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s 3-0 opinion. “ Students who make FOIA requests to further their coursework or other school-sponsored activities are eligible for reduced fees under FOIA because students, like teachers, are part of an educational institution.”

Students affiliated with journalistic publications were already eligible for the fee reduction, which extends to “a representative of the news media.” But a student doing a research paper for a journalism course unaffiliated with a recognized media outlet – or perhaps with nothing more than the aspiration of selling the work as a freelancer – fell into a zone of uncertainty that the appeals court has now helpfully clarified. …

Live-Blog: AG Ellen Rosenblum and Transparency Czar Michael Kron bring Public Records Law Reform Task Force to UO

Monday May 9th, 4:30-6:00PM, Room 141 in the UO Journalism School.

Live-blog: Usual disclaimer – my opinion of the gist of what people said. Nothing is quote unless in quotes.

David Force – newspaperman back in 1973 when this law was passed. The Oregon DOJ was once the ally of transparency. Now the DOJ is on the side of state agencies trying to hide records. It would be more accurate to call this the “Oregon Public Official Secrets Act”. Calls for an independent advocate outside the DOJ, and taking control away from the DOJ and the County DAs. Gives the RG’s long fight to get the Seneca contract from EWEB as an example. It’s not just the exemptions, it’s the conflict of interest between the DOJ and the agencies trying to hide records.

Dave Bahr – local attorney working for clients trying to get records from Feds and various state records. On National Archives transparency committee.

Many people nationally are advocating for eliminating all fees. These are effectively used to block the public’s right of access, but are a trivial part of the budgets of the agencies. The DOJ makes it too easy for state agencies to do this.

Similarly with delays. Washington state allows 5 days – and fines if agencies don’t respond.

Also brings up the point that, under Oregon law, requestors who get the AG or the DA to issue a PR Order can then be sued by the agency. No other state allows this.

Bill Harbaugh – Argues that AG Ellen Rosenblum can and should use the DOJ’s Public Records Orders process to promote transparency, by putting agencies on notice that the AG will not tolerate use of fees and delays. Asks why she is not doing this.

Here are a few resources:

Oregon DOJ:

The Oregon DOJ’s Public Records and Meetings law website.

You can get all the AG’s PR Orders (updated quarterly) from the Oregon Law Library, by following this link: http://cdm17027.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p17027coll2. It’s a pretty clunky interface, and it’s not indexed by google, or even linked to from the DOJ website, but you can search by full text, etc. (Petitions to require local agencies to comply with the law go to the county DAs. Multnomah county has posted all their DA’s PR Orders online. I don’t think any other counties do.)

2008 AG’s Public Records and Meeting Manual. Former AG John Kroger didn’t want it on the web. I posted it illegally in 2009, to much amusement, and Kroger then backed down.

2011 AG’s Public Records and Meetings Manual. (AG Kroger, January 2011)

2014 AG’s Public Records and Meetings Manual (AG Rosenblum, November 2014)

Some UO links: 

The buck gets passed to Lisa Thornton:

Task Force in Eugene, hearing announcement:

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EWEB loses public records case, must pay RG lawyer Jack Orchard $70K

Christian Wihtol has the long story in the RG here. EWEB’s current management and board didn’t have much choice about fighting the RG lawsuit, given the double-secret contract their predecessors had signed with Seneca. EWEB paid their own lawyers $100k for losing this case, and is still paying millions more to Seneca and other failed green energy projects, as Wihtol documents. What fun, spending other people’s money.

If only EWEB’s lawyers had accidentally emailed the RG the unredacted contracts, as some anonymous HLGR employee did during the RG’s public records lawsuit against Eugene’s 4-J School District, this case would have ended sooner and our utility bills would be a bit lower.

RG attorney Jack Orchard is from Portland’s Ball Janik law firm. I’ve always liked a winner:

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Will AG Rosenblum’s Public Records Reform Task Force help or hurt?

12/16/2015: While Governor Kate Brown has proposed significant reforms to the law for the upcoming 2016 legislative session, such as a public advocate (see below), AG Ellen Rosenblum’s task force is planning a revision of the public records law for the 2017 session. The link to the task force is here.

I’ve been sitting through their 3rd meeting for 2 hours now, and I’d say the jury is still out as to whether the AG’s rewrite of the law will improve Oregon public records transparency, or make it worse.

The editorial pages of Oregon’s newspapers, having been burned by a similar effort from John Kroger, are very skeptical.

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12/14/2015:

Governor Kate Brown wants an Oregon public records advocate:

I nominate Steve Duin for the job. The full text of her speech to the Oregon Leadership Summit, in the Oregonian here:

Continue reading

Public Records Office will slash costs of transparency using Cognos

Great news from “Around the O”!

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This promises a drastic improvement in public records response time, and big reductions in the delays and fees the university uses to discourage the public from getting information. While Public Records Director Lisa Thornton can be extremely efficient when it’s helpful to Johnson Hall, e.g. taking only hours to produce the documents on Provost Jim Bean’s sabbatical plans, which killed his chances of becoming interim UO president, at other times her office has trouble with the simplest tasks, generally when the requests involve information UO wants to hide.

For example, on Nov 12 I made a request to Director Thornton for “BANNER statements showing payments from the following ACCT codes from 1/1/2013 to the present: 24502, 24504, 24507, 24520, 24545, 24599, 24612, 24998.”

These are simple reports which any office manager or accounting person can whip out in about 5 minutes, total. Here’s one of them: 

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 1.27.44 AM

If you don’t believe me, go ask your office manager how long it would take them.

But Ms Thorton’s office was buffaloed by this simple process. It was a full three weeks before I got the records. So it’s good to hear that UO’s new technology will allow her office to fill public records requests in minutes, not weeks. You can check it out here.

UO claims Vin Lananna is faculty, won’t release NCAA income report

When I asked the UCLA Public Records office for the NCAA required “Outside Income Report” for their Athletic Director and Track Coach, they sent the documents less than 24 hours later, at no charge. No redactions except the phone number. Full pdf here:

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.26.21 AM

When you make a similar request to the University of Oregon Public Records Office, you will likely have to wait months (more than 3 months for the original request, my mirror took less) and then you will get a letter saying that they will not release these NCAA reports because they are “faculty records”, and therefore fall under an exemption meant to protect academic freedom.

That’s right, UO thinks its coaches and athletic directors are faculty:

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I wonder what they are hiding this time.