By editorial board • 

Governor’s reign marked by hypocrisy, not transparency

Upon her inauguration in 2015, Gov. Kate Brown told Oregonians: “Throughout my 24 years in public service, I have also sought to promote transparency and trust in government ... That will not change as governor.”

Well, one thing’s for sure. Either Brown never sought to promote transparency and trust in government, or that did indeed change when she assumed the gubernatorial reins. Because her recent actions have trampled the last remnants of transparency and eroded the last vestiges of trust.

Like “the chosen one” in D.C., who maintains a straight face while proclaiming himself a “stable genius” possessing “unmatched wisdom,” Brown has made a virtual science of saying one thing while doing another. In the process, she has stained a long bi-partisan tradition of Oregon governance marked by good intentions, high character and principled actions.

On June 25, Court of Appeals Judge Erika Hadlock advised Brown of her intent to retire come Nov. 1.

Normal procedure calls for publicly announcing the vacancy, soliciting a field of highly qualified applicants and having those applicants rigorously vetted by independent panels. Instead, Brown tapped her 37-year-old in-house counsel — Misha Isaak, who has only tried two cases in his entire career — for a post no one else even knew was open. What’s more, it was the third time in two years she had tapped an aide for a judgeship.

Brown ended up reversing course, admitting a mistake and vowing it would never happen again. But that came only after the abrupt resignation of Oregon’s first public records advocate engulfed both her and her insider appointee in a furious backlash.

Records advocate Ginger McCall called out Isaak for pressuring her to do the governor’s bidding behind the scenes, without even letting her own advisory board in on the subterfuge. McCall, a lawyer with an extensive public records resume, felt it made her purportedly independent position untenable.

The same legislation that created the new records post also established a 15-day deadline for either handing over requested records or citing a legal reason for withholding.

Brown sought and obtained an out for remote rural agencies lacking professional resources. But so far, her 70-member Salem staff has been the leading user.

Brown has six staffers assigned to a communications team known for writing glowing press releases about her record of transparency, but only one to handling public records requests. That, it seems, puts her in a position to join towns like Granite and Dufur in citing lack of resources.

The Oregonian filed two requests in mid-August that languished more than six weeks before first earning staff attention. Now the paper’s being told it could take another nine weeks.

The Oregonian is seeking documents regarding Brown’s involvement in highly controversial climate change legislation, a matter of urgent public interest. A delay of almost four months would be utterly unacceptable for Granite or Dufur, let alone the lavishly staffed gubernatorial command center in Oregon’s capital city. Could it be she simply doesn’t want us to know what’s actually going on?

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