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Failure to Communicate

12/10/2010: The Connecting Eugene group recently made this appeal to the Senate Transparency Committee regarding UO’s delay responding to public records requests about the Trammmel Crow / ORI / Riverfront Research contracts, and UO’s refusal to grant a public interest fee waiver for the documents.

Yesterday the committee met to address this complaint. UO’s Public Records Officer Liz Denecke took the strange position that the Connecting Eugene people had forced her to charge them $202.34 and then stonewall for 3 weeks before she could provide them with the public contracts. As far as she’s concerned it was all *their* fault. She is quoted by Stefan Verbano in the ODE:

“This (conversation) should not even be necessary if you would have communicated with me earlier,” Denecke told Cziko. “You have to tell me what it is you’ve gotten, and what it is you are seeking … (it’s) a fundamental problem of you needing to tell me.

Wait – I’ve heard that logic before, from someone:

She is the Public Records Officer. Those troublemakers trying to get public records are the fundamental problem. What will it take to communicate with them? The lash? The box? 50 eggs?

Not enough, apparently. Connecting Eugene stuck to their arguments. Ms Denecke folded and agreed to refund the $202.34 that she had charged them for public records. I am pretty sure this is the first time that has ever happened in the history of Oregon’s public records law.

Meanwhile the City of Eugene had provided the documents requested from them in 2 days, with no fee.

I hope this resolution is a positive step forward for Transparency at UO, and that next time Ms Denecke will think long and hard – and explain her thinking in writing to the public – before using fees to delay and discourage people from exercising their rights to get public information on matters of public importance. But, realistically, I expect it will be a long fight.

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