Ellen Rosenblum will seek changes in Oregon’s 40-year-old public records law to make government responses to citizen requests “earlier, cheaper and better.”
This sounds nice. Oregon is rated one of the least transparent states for public records access. But Oregon’s public records law is not the problem. The problem is how the Oregon Attorney General has interpreted the law. There is an inherent conflict of interest between the DOJ’s role as counsel to state agencies and their role enforcing the public records law which requires those same state agencies to release embarrassing – or worse – documents. Time and time again the the DOJ has chosen the interests of their clients over the public’s right to know.
I hope Rosenblum does not try and drop this problem on the legislature, as Kroger did to so little success. She can fix it herself, by writing a few opinions ordering agencies to waive fees and respond quickly.
As Jeff Manning writes today in the Oregonian, on Kroger’s term as AG:
By 2011, there were some indications that Kroger was a spent force.
Early that year, he unveiled a government transparency initiative, a move to update the state’s Open Records laws. The state’s records law had become riddled with more than 400 exemptions and was in need of a reboot, Kroger said in March 2011.
Portland lawyer John DiLorenzo, a power in his own right in Salem, favored the initiative. But he soon realized it was doomed. The cities, counties and even some state agencies balked at the cost of complying and Kroger lacked the political juice to overcome the opposition. His bill didn’t even make it out of committee.