By editorial board • 

Brown’s record belies claims of transparency

Gov. Kate Brown talks a good talk when it comes to transparency and accountability in government. But she doesn’t walk a very convincing walk.

Brown has repeatedly stumbled when it comes to making public records available in a timely fashion. And she stumbled twice more in recent weeks, in the face of a Nov. 6 referendum on her governmental stewardship.

You’d think a tight re-election campaign would move her to greater openness, for appearance’s sake if nothing else. But it seems fear of releasing anything that might prove useful to Republican challenger Knute Buehler has instead induced her to pinch off the flow, even of information routinely released in the past.

Exhibit A: For many years, former legislative lawyer Greg Chaimov regularly received copies of measures state agencies were proposing for submission to the Legislature in bill form. That gave his business sector clients valuable insight into the administration’s policy agenda for upcoming sessions. It also, of course, made these records open to inspection by any Oregonian so inclined to read them.

But this year, the Brown administration cited attorney-client privilege in denying Chaimov pre-election access. The governor’s legislative policy menu could be made public Nov. 30, it seems, but not, say, Oct. 30.

Chaimov filed a lawsuit seeking access. He won a release order in Marion County Circuit Court, but the administration appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Though “not oblivious to the political context,” the court said, the case could not be given adequate consideration on a pre-election basis.

The attorney-client claim strikes us as wholly without merit. In recent years, stretching the concept into an all-encompassing umbrella has become a regular tactic of officials eager to hide inconvenient truths. But the administration appeal has left the public without timely recourse.

Exhibit B: The state Department of Education, currently headed by recent Brown appointee Colt Gill, has released school performance ratings every fall for years. This year’s ratings were shared with local school officials Oct. 4, in preparation for their public release Oct. 25.

But, at the last minute, Gill concluded sharing of school performance details with the public would have to wait until Nov. 15, moving it conveniently past an election in which the challenger has turned dismal school performance into an indictment of the incumbent. Brown swiftly reversed that call, but it took a tough front-page story in the state’s largest newspaper to spur her to action.

Brown claims to be a champion of all the news that’s fit to print. But her record suggests she’s actually just an advocate of all the news that figures to cast her administration in a favorable light. And the supposedly independent state Department of Justice, headed by party colleague Ellen Rosenblum, has proven remarkably acquiescent in helping Brown close doors.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant when rot begins to invade dark corners of our government, as it inevitably does, regardless of who’s perched at the top at the time. We should all strive to let the sun shine in.

Comments

T.W.S.

Worst governor this state has had in the last two decades. Clearly an Obama wannabe in desiring to "fundamentally transform" Oregon (for the worse).