HLGR law loses Pete Shepherd, last attorney in Salem office, to DEQ

Harrang, Long Gary and Rudnick – once one of the state’s most politically connected law firms, has lost a string of recent court cases ranging from the PERS case to the Bowl of Dicks. In the midst of a public records lawsuit from the Register Guard they even managed to lose the Eugene School Board’s confidential records, by mistakenly emailing them to the RG. Whoops.

They’re also losing lawyers – down from 40 in 2006 to 20, I count 15 16 departures since 2012. Pete Shepherd, the last lawyer in their Salem office, is the latest. His new job is Interim Director of the Oregon DEQ, which is in turmoil after public records showed it had ignored releases of toxic metals from glass factories into the Portland air.

While Shepherd doesn’t have any environmental experience, he does have a long history of using his former position as Deputy Attorney General to write a slew of opinions that gutted Oregon’s Public Records law and the pro-transparency interpretations that had been made by its author Dave Frohnmayer, when he served as AG.

Nick Budnick has more in the Portland Tribune. Read it all here. A snippet:

Transparency advocates do not remember Shepherds’ time at DOJ fondly. The state’s attorney general is tasked with interpreting the Oregon Public Records Law, issuing orders to settle records disputes between members of the public and state agencies. Shepherd’s duties included public records, and he was the lawyer who typically signed orders issued by the Myers administration.

At a talk about government transparency hosted last week by the University of Oregon in Portland, Myers’ record was characterized as a low point for Oregonians trying to understand how their government worked.

Investigative reporter and University of Oregon journalism professor Brent Walth described his review of records decisions detailed in the state’s open records manual, which showed Frohnmayer ruled in favor of disclosure most of the time, but Myers ruled for disclosure only 28 percent of the time.

Myers’ tenure was “a disaster … (and) wrecked the state’s records law,” Walth said.

… Myers had ruled that information about PERS retiree benefits, as well as Nike’s sponsorship contracts with the University of Oregon, could not be released. Both rulings later were overturned, as was a ruling that autopsy records shouldn’t be released.

… Bill Harbaugh, a University of Oregon professor and records activist, … says Shepherd viewed his job as preventing the release of information.

“Given his history at the Oregon DOJ, Pete is the perfect man to ensure that the public is protected from any additional releases — of public records,” he says. “I’m surprised that the governor believes he’ll protect the public from releases of air toxins as well.”

Since leaving office, Shepherd has worked for Harrang Long, a top law firm. There, he’s been part of at least three lawsuits against newspapers to block the release of public records. In one of them, he sued The Oregonian on behalf of Oregon Health & Science University to block the release of records about potential litigation that had been ordered released by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office.

In a court hearing, Duane Bosworth, one of the top records lawyers in the state, characterized Shepherd’s arguments for secrecy as disingenuous and “outrageous.”

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge sided with The Oregonian, but the case is under appeal. …

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