UO exempt from Governor Brown’s upcoming public records audits

Governor Kate Brown has just signed Senate Bill 9, calling for audits of state agency compliance with Oregon’s Public Records law. Good for her.

Except for a brief period under President Lariviere, UO’s public records office has been notorious for its use of fees, delays, and redactions to frustrate the intent of that law. An audit might turn up some interesting stuff, just as the Oregon DOJ’s 2010 investigation of the UO General Counsel’s office under Melinda Grier did about her and her assistant Doug Park’s delays in providing the Bellotti documents to reporters. (Lariviere fired Grier, and after a series of implausible events her assistant Doug Park, who’d handled the Bellotti requests, became UO’s Interim GC.):

But no. In some spectacularly bad news for trust and transparency at UO, UO’s public records office will be exempt from these audits. I’m no law professor, but here’s the story. The newly passed SB 9 reads:

Senate Bill 9 Sponsored by Senators COURTNEY, FERRIOLI, ROSENBAUM, Representatives KOTEK, HOYLE; Senators DEVLIN, JOHNSON, MONNES ANDERSON (at the request of Governor Kate Brown)

… Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon: SECTION 1. (1) As used in this section: (a) “Performance audit” has the meaning given that term in ORS 297.070. (b) “State agency” has the meaning given that term in ORS 192.410. (2) The Secretary of State shall conduct a performance audit examining state agency retention and disclosure practices concerning public records and requests for public records. …

And while ORS 192.410 says

5) State agency means any state officer, department, board, commission or court created by the Constitution or statutes of this state but does not include the Legislative Assembly or its members, committees, officers or employees insofar as they are exempt under section 9, Article IV of the Oregon Constitution.

SB 270, which created the independent UO Board, makes it pretty clear that UO is no longer a state agency:

SECTION 2a. A university with a governing board is a governmental entity performing governmental functions and exercising governmental powers. A university with a governing board is not considered a unit of local or municipal government or a state agency, board, commission or institution for purposes of state statutes or constitutional provisions.

So what is UO and it’s new independent Board of Trustees?

(3) “Public body” includes every state officer, agency, department, division, bureau, board and commission; every county and city governing body, school district, special district, municipal corporation, and any board, department, commission, council, or agency thereof; and any other public agency of this state.

We’re now like a local school district, it seems. This is why public records petitions about UO’s delays, fees, and redactions no longer go to the Oregon DOJ – they go to the Lane County DA. And so no public records audit for UO. I can think of a few people in Johnson Hall who are going to be very happy with this.

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13 Responses to UO exempt from Governor Brown’s upcoming public records audits

  1. Rep says:

    UOM thank you for finally ferreting out what we and the other six schools are being nothing more than a school district with one school and a local school board.

    Is that better than a state system?

    And with all our new school district freedoms, who is it up to to decide if we will be Springfield or Oswego?

  2. David Schuman says:

    Whether the UO is or is not a state agency is an open question. The designation depends on how an entity is created and governed, and how it functions within state government. The legislature cannot create an entity that has all of the necessary elements of a state agency and then declare that the entity is NOT a state agency.

    • uomatters says:

      Thanks – I’m not sure who at the DOJ decided that UO was not a state agency for the purpose of PR petitions, but they did it immediately after SB270 was passed. The AAG I talked to there also seemed to think it was not clear which way that decision should have been made.

    • charlie says:

      If U of Owe isn’t a state agency, does that mean taxpayers are off the hook for all that public debt when the bottom falls out of student admits?

  3. Plain Interested says:

    This is a very interesting question. Sundays RG article about attracting very highly rated professors to come to OU for the biology cluster of excellence, said the UO could also offer the professor’s spouse a job too. Does that strike anyone as not really allowed by a public agency, or havjng open searches for jobs in general?

    • XDH says:

      RE: “UO could also offer the professor’s spouse a job too”

      That’s complete and utter BS. During my time as Dept Head, we twice tried to make hires where the spouse was also interested in an academic job. While JH talks a good talk on the issue, it was CAS who ultimately had to pay the salary. In both our cases CAS said “no” to the spousal hire. Not surprisingly, both candidates then said “no”.

      • xdh2 says:

        Spousal and partner hiring has been one of the most vexed issues in my department and others I know of. It does happen sometimes here, but there has to be at least the appearance of an open, affirmative action compliant search. CAS has occasionally looked favorably on such arrangements, sometimes not. My department has spilled quite a lot of blood over this, some of it my own. Academic endogamy will probably continue to make this a controversial matter.

      • moi says:

        Who paid the salary for Larivierre’s wife to be a development officer?
        With zero experience she was paid $170,000.

    • Grus canadensis says:

      The bottom line is this: Some universities extend employment offers to spouses, others don’t (or can’t because they can’t afford it). Academics spend their 20s in grad school, where they (as often as not) meet their life-partners. Consequently, a huge proportion of hires bring with them a “two-career problem.” For universities, competitiveness often depends on the willingness and ability of administrators to offer a career to the spouse. The more privatized universities become, the greater the competition. But “the problem” will not go away. It’s the natural and inevitable result of gender equity in graduate school admissions.

  4. Plain Interested says:

    XDH: Help me out here:

    1) BS it was in the paper: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/33181753-75/selker-cell541-221-1267.html.csp – University of Oregon to hire faculty under auspices of researchers Jim Hutchison, Eric Selker and Elizabeth Stormshak – “Hiring process underway- Administrators chose two newly funded clusters based on past achievements, where the departments rank now compared to counterparts nationally, and which would be most likely to make the top 20 comparable departments in the country. A hiring process is already underway. The UO is contacting researchers, singing the university’s praises and making proposals, such as guaranteeing a spouse’s job if that would help.”

    2) BS that is doesn’t happen, or 3) BS that it could happen?

    • XDH says:

      Sorry, I thought I was pretty clear I took exception to the spousal hire point. Everything else about the clusters moving forward is exciting news, should it really come to fruition (i.e., the day when some of these new faculty actually agree to come to UO).

  5. numnum says:

    plain interested-

    the key is in the passage you posted…..

    Administrators chose two newly funded clusters based on past achievements, where the departments rank now compared to counterparts nationally

    if the two-career problem is in a Dept with little standing on campus or pull in JH, then it does not happen. If you are a DH with the cool kids, then it is a done deal.