From the Oregonian:
Oregon attorney general to review public records law
Posted by The Associated Press July 08, 2009 14:56PM
By TIM FOUGHT
Associated Press Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Attorney General John Kroger says he'll review Oregon's open government laws to see whether they're being interpreted correctly and whether he should ask the Legislature to change them.
Kroger says Oregonians tell him they value transparency in government, but he hears from journalists that it's gotten more difficult to get public records.
The attorney general called a meeting Tuesday with journalists at offices of The Oregonian newspaper to discuss his plans.
Oregon open government laws date to 1973, a year when the Watergate scandal was leading toward the resignation of a president and open government reform was building in many states.
Since then, critics say, the Oregon laws have been watered down by exceptions the Legislature has approved, narrow interpretations from state lawyers, agency foot-dragging, and high fees charged to prepare data for release.
The effect has been to stand the law on its head, say journalists and their advocates.
"The starting point is not disclosure, as the law intended, but the starting point is the media has to prove that it's public before it can be released," said Therese Bottomly, an Oregonian managing editor who was host at the meeting.
She called Kroger's plans for review a good first step.
Kroger said the review will include a look at laws in other states. Oregon is often low on state-by-state rankings of open government, he said.
He said the work will take time, but open government is important to the state's future.
"It's very important for me to get this right," he said.
The attorney general's office provides legal advice throughout state government. Kroger said he wants to make sure the advice about open records and meetings is consistent.He urged journalists to maintain an "ongoing dialogue" with agencies when conflicts arise and said he was interested in a way to bring a third party into disputes, citing the open government ombudsman who works for the Washington state attorney general's office.