Lots of testimony from Pete Shepherd, who as Deputy AG did so much to destroy the promise of Dave Frohnmayer’s public records law – and famously lost the PERS case to the Oregonian, while working for Harrang et al. The new law, which comes out of AG Ellen Rosenblum and AAG Michael Kron’s reform committee, has a deadline – but with a loophole that puts transparency at the very bottom of the list of necessary Oregon government services:
… (5) As soon as reasonably possible but not later than 10 business days after the date by which a public body is required to acknowledge receipt of the request under ORS 192.440, a public body shall: (a) Complete its response to the public records request; or (b) Provide a written statement that the public body is still processing the request and a reasonable estimated date by which the public body expects to complete its response based on the information currently available. (6) The time periods established by ORS 192.440 and subsection (5) of this section do not apply to a public body if compliance would be impracticable because:
(a) The staff or volunteers necessary to complete a response to the public records request are unavailable;
(b) Compliance would demonstrably impede the public body’s ability to perform other necessary services; ….
Thanks to Paris Achen at the Portland Tribune for the link.
Isn’t a “deadline” at all. More like a whatever-I-think-is-reasonable line. “Sorry professor, I didn’t turn in my paper on the deadline because I didn’t think it was reasonable, and, besides, I had other necessary things to do.” This isn’t an improvement.
My department has been on the receiving end of requests that would honestly take weeks of staff work to fulfill. I get that loopholes like these are more often used to avoid providing records entirely, but there needs to be some sort of balance between satisfying the whims of bloggers and actually getting work done. How would you strike that balance?
If you are receiving funding from the public, perhaps the public should get to choose what work you do.
Of course, the less money they provide, the less they should get to choose…
If the public wants to pay me to spend my time telling them that I spend all my time telling them how I spend my time, I suppose that is fine with me.
Seems like there needs to be an independent Public Information Auditor position for the state. This person would make decisions on what is “reasonable” and order disclosures.
Very few requests actually take much time to fill. It takes only seconds to copy a massive computer file. Finding it with a computer search takes only a few more seconds. The records law does not require the creation of any new records, only disclosure of existing records.
Are public information requests themselves public? They should be if they’re not. It would be interesting to see the number and subject of information requests, as well as which get fulfilled and which get ignored or put in an infinity queue.
I remember talking to an ethnic studies professor 30 years ago. He would submit the very same information request to various agencies about his research topic (an individual). Every time he got the results, different stuff was redacted. Over time, he got nearly 100% of documents — different stuff redacted and not redacted. It was basically random. And totally unnecessary.