Hubin’s public records office uses fees and delays to hide docs

9/18/2014 update: Excluding duplicates, UO has received roughly 40 public records requests in the 90 days since June 18. Log here. That’s roughly two requests every three working days. They’ve got two staff, plus help from the GC’s office on redactions. Some requests are complicated, but many are simply asking for bids, contracts, or accounting statements, which require almost no PRO time. (And many requests are never filled, after reporters see the high fees Dave Hubin wants to charge them).

The Oregon AG’s Public Records and Meeting Manual gives one week as a reasonable time for public agencies to respond – but according to this letter UO’s PRO is now 6 weeks behind. They’ve got plenty of time to spend on writing long excuses, however.

9/14/2014: Dave Hubin’s public records office charges KATU TV $779 for retaliation docs

To his credit Scott Coltrane has already spent more time talking to the press than Mike Gottfredson did in two years. Unfortunately he’s had to use most of that air time to deal with Gottfredson’s reeking aftermath. And as the latest story makes clear, that’s unlikely to change until El Jefe tells Dave Hubin it’s time to return to Richard Lariviere’s transparency policies.

The current UO administration is willing to spend piles of tuition money on PR flacks to write stories that make them look good, and to help reporters get information that puffs up administrator’s resumes. Tim Clevenger gets $195K, Tobin Klinger gets $115K, and Ann Wiens gets $110K for writing stories like this. I can’t wait to read her Coltrane hagiography. (For contrast, look at the excellent story Brent Walth wrote for the Oregon Quarterly about Lariviere’s New Partnership Plan. If you can find it – the OQ seems to have deleted the editions from before Ms Wiens was hired from their archives.) Dave Hubin gets $140K to help hide public records – page down for details.

And here’s the petty trust destroying punishment these expensive administrators inflict on journalists who dare to criticize Johnson Hall:

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 9.46.59 PM

Original KATU story here, UO response here, KATU evisceration of the UO response here.

How does UO decide to deny a fee waiver request? UO Public Records Officer Lisa Thornton explains, here. (Paraphrased with a little editorializing on my part, not direct quotes, but I think a pretty accurate reflection of the March 2013 meeting, and so far as I remember never disputed by her supervisor and Assistant to the President Dave Hubin):

Fee waivers:

Dave Hubin: I believe we are operating within the law, which says “may waive”. But the optics are not good.

Lisa Thornton: We apply the three-part test on page 20 which gives us broad discretion to delay and frustrate, and we drive a truck through that.

Tim Gleason: Explain.

Thornton: I apply my judgement to ask if the citizen’s of Eugene would benefit from reading about this. (My god).

Q: Do you explain your denials? Thornton: No.

Craig Pintens: Can’t you have drop down boxes or something?

Thornton: We google the requester to see what they are up to. (My god).

Even Gleason sees this is trouble: “It’s problematic to give you this discretion.”

John Bonine: Oregon law was based on federal law, which contrasts public benefit with private benefit. Commercial is out. If it’s not just for yourself, it’s public benefit.

Gleason: Back on his thing about the burden on the institution.

Bonine: First test for public interest, then ask if the extent of those benefits exceeds the cost.

Thornton: So I’m going to have to do benefit-cost analysis? Can I hire an economist?

Bonine: Not only that, I want you to put your decision and reasons on the web. Provides guidance to requestors, reduces your unbounded authority.

Thornton: We do have discussions and back and forth with requesters about public interest.

Harbaugh: No, you don’t.

Thornton: Let me backtrack on my previous statement. Randy Geller has advised me not to explain fee waiver denials.

Bonine: WTF? Hubin should go back to Geller and change this.

Bonine: There should not be secret law. It is not appropriate for an agency to hide the reasons for a denial. If explanations harm the university, that’s because the university is not behaving well.

Hubin: Is there a consensus that we should give better explanations, and post them? I would have to take that to Geller, and Gottfredson.

Bonine: Not appropriate for Geller to hide his opinions – so if we ask this, we want to get his opinion in writing.

Hubin: We will write some language for transparency about our denials of fee-waivers for transparency requests.

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10 Responses to Hubin’s public records office uses fees and delays to hide docs

  1. charlie says:

    So how did they come up with $799, rather than $800? Did JH think that knocking off a buck makes anyone think they’re getting a bargain, just like all those $29.99 ads for backscratchers and such? I guess the admins think if if worked for ShamWow, it’ll work for them…

  2. Steve says:

    Should it be surprising that UO has “PR flacks to write stories that make them look good”? FYI, this is called “fundraising,” and it’s used to, among other things, pay professors’ salaries.

  3. Old Man says:

    Charlie: “$799″ is a mistake by UOM. If you read the KATU article you will find $779”.
    Steve: The money spent to “make us look good” would be better spent helping us be good. JH should not underestimate the intelligence of our potential donors.

  4. Lost 8 of 8? says:

    The response reads like you ask too many questions. My my 68 request in a year. Assuming that the PR office has the Director plus 2 staff, your 68 requests account for about 1% of the hours in a year.

    I do not think the Open Records law limits any one person the number of requests they can make. As long as the requests are reasonable, open, and of public interest they person requesting should be given wide latitude. In fact, back when we had a working media one or two reporters would account for the bulk of the requests. Since there is literally not a single public higher education reporter left in the state, it is up to bloggers and those willing to fight the good fight–or at least tilt at windmills, to inform. I guess the State’s Lawyers or Secretary of State’s office could take note but as an elected officials and political beasts, the probably already know what hand is in what pot, and not to bite it.

    The UO gets 313 requests including yours in about 7000 working hours with the assumptions above. That gives them about 22 hours per request to work or about half a week. And looking at the log it looks like most would be easy like directory information and such, others would be easy if they would just release the info, and the ones that are hard go to the the general council anyway and would have a fee attached.

    So in the spirit of Open Records. I think it would be good to have a log of all your requests and all pertinent information in an easy to read webpage or dashboard. Information like if they were escalated and the outcome, the final judgement, the cost, and the results of each, if it was picked up by the media. It would cost a few hours and you probably do not have two staff but it may help your readers and perhaps the DA to understand if you are a crackpot or a muckraking journalist.

  5. just another volunteer says:

    The most recent item in the log is interesting as it presents a request for complete directory listing information (and more) for every student from a political operative (spammer).

    While the .gov site for FERPA allows for release of directory information without consent it does mandate a process for notification and opt out:

    “Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.”

    Managing this kind of release could take some time as parts of the request could be meet (name, address, honors, etc.) but parts would have to be redacted for students who opt out. I’d be happy is this request was refused altogether and I wonder how accurate current records are regarding notification and opt out.

    Everyone out there knows how to manage their directory listings and takes action when they get the annual email notice to make sure their settings reflect their privacy concerns – yes?

    Request comes from:

    • Anonymous says:

      This happens all the time, but usually through the registrar’s office and not as a public records request. It’s pretty easy and routine for the University to pull the data, omitting those students who opt out. The University then sells the student lists to anyone who wants it. I think it’s usually for marketers and such.

  6. Anoymous says:

    Dave Hubin has done so much to weaken faculty governance over the years in loyal service to Frohnmayer etc. He’s got no credibility and if Coltrane wants to rebuild some trust with the Senate he needs a replacement. UO Matters would be my first choice. Any other suggestions?

  7. Frank Stahl says:

    As “Special Assistant to the President”, Hubin’s job is exactly that — to assist the President. To expect him to do otherwise is both naive and unfair. But don’t sell him short.
    The UO owes its remarkable Constitution to Hubin. As a volunteer participant in the Governance Committee that generated our Constitution, I had the opportunity to watch Dave guide the Committee and the President to a successful conclusion with truly breathtaking feats of shuttle diplomacy. As a result of his efforts, the University has a Constitution that assures vigorous give-and-take between President and Senate in all contentious issues that impact the University’s academic mission. I leave it to you to imagine the battles that Dave might have had to fight in JH in support of our remarkably strong, constitutional faculty governance.

  8. Anon to Stahl says:

    Hubin’s title is Senior Assistant to the President. Otherwise, your comment is right on.