11/23/2011 with updates. I like the “personally liable” part.
Here’s the deal as I understand it. The Board is now claiming they have *not* made a decision about renewal of Lariviere’s contract. They cannot do that without issuing public notice and having a meeting. Instead, OUS Board Chair Matt Donegan polled the members, then met with Lariviere Monday and told him he did not think the contract would be renewed. He asked Larivere to go quietly.
Lariviere went to the Governor for help. Tuesday at 4PM, Kitzhaber told Lariviere no, he would stand by the board and their decision. Tuesday night Lariviere then told the UO leadership via conference call he would not go quietly.
The OUS board and their ace legal counsel Ryan Hageman have now written a press release serving public notice of a public meeting to ratify the decision they have already made without a public meeting. This is the situation Donegan had hoped to avoid by convincing Lariviere to resign.
Given that “personally liable” part, I’m wondering what lawyer advised OUS board chair Matt Donegan that he could poll the board and make a secret decision to fire Lariviere. OUS Counsel Ryan Hageman? Or Dave Frohnmayer or Melinda Grier – both of whom were part of recent proposals to provide legal advice to OUS regarding employment law.
So, was it legal? Read this RG story on a very similar recent case:
Lane County Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson willfully violated Oregon’s public meetings law in 2009 and are personally liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses in the case, a judge said in a ruling released Tuesday.
Handy lined up votes to approve personal assistants for commissioners and worked with Sorenson in advance to script a vote, making the resulting public process a “sham,” Coos County Circuit Judge Michael Gillespie wrote in a 44-page opinion. “It was orchestrated down to the timing and manner of the vote so as to avoid any public discussion.”
That sounds familiar. Here’s Oregon’s public meetings law:
ORS 192.620 establishes Oregon’s policy of open decision-making by governing bodies:
The Oregon form of government requires an informed public aware of the deliberations and decisions of governing bodies and the information upon which such decisions were made. It is the intent of ORS 192.610 to 192.690 that decisions of governing bodies be arrived at openly.
This open decision-making policy is given effect by the law’s substantive provisions. These provisions are intended to ensure, among other things, that the meetings of governing bodies, at which decisions about the public’s business are made or discussed, are open to the public, ORS 192.630(1), (2); that the public has notice of the time and place of meetings, ORS 192.640; and that the meetings are accessible to persons wishing to attend, ORS 192.630(4), (5).
There are provisions allowing executive sessions, for example for personnel decisions. These also require public notice:
The Public Meetings Law requires that public notice be given of the time and place of meetings. This requirement applies to regular, special and emergency meetings as those terms are used in ORS 192.640. The public notice requirements apply to any “meeting” of a “governing body” subject to the law, including committees, subcommittees and advisory groups. See discussion above of Governing Bodies and of Meetings. A governing body’s notice must be reasonably calculated to provide actual notice to the persons and the media that have stated in writing that they wish to be notified of every meeting.
If a meeting will consist only of an executive session, notice still must be given to the members of the governing body, to the general public and to news media that have requested notice. The notice also must state the specific legal provision authorizing the executive session. ORS 192.640(2).
Notices for meetings that will include both an executive session and a nonexecutive session should give notice of both and state the statutory authority for the executive session.
A citizen who believes that a governing body has violated the provisions permitting an executive session may file a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
Their website is here.The same issue came up with the board’s 1987 decision not to renew President Olum’s contract. I’m still searching for a copy of the AG opinion on that, written by, you guessed it, our friend and then AG Dave Frohnmayer.
Here’s a 1988 opinion reaffirming the OUS’s obligation to follow the open meetings law.