It was an admittedly brief reference, but on Wednesday The Oregonian editorial board wrote a scathing piece about the Portland City Council’s blatant disregard for Oregon’s transparency laws and cited the Freedom Foundation’s recent legal victory as one of its prime examples.
The article was primarily focused on Portland officials’ latest attempt to persuade Clark County, just across the border in Washington state, to shield certain information from disclosure by ignoring its own state’s public records laws and instead applying Oregon’s.
It went on to condemn the broader hypocrisy and political favoritism evident in the Portland leaders’ approach to government transparency, writing:
“(I)t seems the episode exposes Portland city attorneys’ belief that public records are only public if they deem the information – and the person requesting it – worthy for disclosure. This same bias colored the city’s refusal to share information on employee representation with the openly anti-union Freedom Foundation nonprofit last year. And it only leads to heightened suspicion of how the city does business.”
That it does.
The good news is, the Portland City Council has failed. Or, as The Oregonian puts it, “Two Strikes On Public Records; Will City Go For A Third?” The most significant of those strikes came at the hands of the Freedom Foundation, which recently prevailed in obtaining a list of union-represented employees after the city’s bogus lawsuit to keep the records secret was thrown out by a judge.
The bad news is, government officials like those in Portland will continue manipulating Oregon’s public records law as long as the practice is permitted by Gov. Kate Brown’s administration.
It’s no wonder a culture of hypocrisy thrives in Oregon, since the governor herself has set the standard. Whether it’s passing a law for the sole purpose of denying a pending Freedom Foundation records request in 2015 or appointing one of the state’s biggest special interests and enemies of the public records law– and not coincidentally, one of her largest campaign donors – to the Public Records Advisory Council, the governor has made it abundantly clear this sort of double standard and bias is not only acceptable, but valued.
At the end of the day, therefore, the city of Portland will probably go for strike three. But unlike America’s pastime, this isn’t the kind of game where three strikes means you’re out.
At least, thanks to groups like the Freedom Foundation making the news and The Oregonianreporting it, the public is sure to know what they’re up to.