By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Important to admit if 'unsure of obligations'

Misinterpreting Oregon’s public records/meetings law — as in a letter from county Commissioner Mary Starrett — can be a mild offense given the complexities of that law. However, we’ve seen a disturbing pattern of public officials disregarding important laws that mandate transparency in governance.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Hillary Clinton and John Kitzhaber assumed they could conduct public business through the secrecy of their private email accounts. Kitzhaber is out of office, and Clinton’s presidential campaign is distracted by all the questions about her secret dealings.

This year, we’ve seen some truly disingenuous misinterpretations of records laws, and public officials at all levels of government often scramble to justify withholding public documents they are allowed to divulge.

But back to the present.

Starrett indicates in an online comment that meeting minutes can be withheld from public view until they have been approved by the governing body. That just isn’t so; a draft document, in most cases, is a public document subject to disclosure.

The commissioner is not alone in missing certain points of the state law. Somehow, our county government developed a notion that rules are different for an “informal meeting” versus a “formal meeting.” Oregon law doesn’t recognize any such stipulation.

Debating those legal distinctions, however, takes a back seat when we consider the commissioner’s suggestion that we purposefully omitted pertinent information from our story in order to show her and county staff “in a bad light.” There’s a touch of paranoia in that claim, since the story simply reported what occurred at a particular public meeting.

Actually, a bit of healthy paranoia might be in order related to another topic in Starrett’s letter – record requests from disabled people. To quote the attorney general:

“When making public records available, a public body must provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to request an alternative form (large print, Braille, audio tape, etc.) … Before refusing a request for accommodation under the ADA, a public body that is unsure of its obligations should consult with its legal counsel.”

In the world of public records, too many public officials act rashly rather than admit they are unsure of their obligations.


Scott Gibson

Well put, Jeb. Your article was an important review of the facts to counter yet another diatribe from Commissioner Starrett. Thanks for laying out the facts so that our community can make sense of these back and forth accusations. It is sad to see a sitting commissioner suggest that a citizen was prevaricating and to put it in print.

Don Dix

I'm astounded! Politicians exhibiting a warped line of thinking? How could that be?

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