Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual 2014 – Public Meetings Law Appendix M

Summaries of Oregon Appellate Court Decisions Involving Public Meetings Law

To find references to these cases in the manual, search for the first party name.

Crowfoot Elem. Sch. Dist. v. P.E.R.B., 19 Or App 638, 529 P2d 405 (1974) .

Unfair labor practice charge against teachers’ union dismissed. Employer contended that ORS 243.672(2)(f), which precludes communications between public officials and union members during the period of contract negotiation, forbade teachers from appearing at school board budget meetings. The court read ORS 243.672(2)(f) in harmony with the Public Meetings Law, and held that teachers may attend school board meetings during the negotiation period because the meetings are open to all.

Egge v. Lane County, 21 Or App 520, 535 P2d 773 (1975) .

Plaintiff alleged board of commissioners had violated the Public Meetings Law when it met and denied plaintiff’s request for a zoning variance. Plaintiff sought reversal of the board’s action. The court refused to reverse the board’s action because ORS 192.680 then provided that “[n]o decision shall be voided” solely for noncompliance with Public Meetings Law.

SW Ore. Pub. Co. v. SW Ore. Comm. Coll., 28 Or App 383, 559 P2d 1289 (1977).

Community college district appealed from injunction barring it from conducting collective bargaining sessions closed to the news media. The court held that a retained negotiator is neither a public body nor a governing body. Therefore, the negotiations were not subject to the Public Meetings Law and the media could be excluded. ORS 192.660(3), (4).

Smith v. School Dist. No. 45, 63 Or App 685, 666 P2d 1345, rev den 295 Or 773, 670 P2d 1036 (1983).

School district provided record of this hearing but resisted disclosure of hearing record of another probationary teacher and minutes of contract renewal meeting. The district finally furnished all records before trial. Court of Appeals reversed in part holding that (1) ORS 192.420 creates a right of access to public records that is not dependent on the requester’s need or motivation; (2) there was no evidence to show that plaintiff’s request was unduly burdensome; (3) a public body may not refuse to produce records subject to inspection just because the requester already possesses them, and the trial court could not properly refuse to declare that the records were public and subject to disclosure; (4) the statutory litigation exemption is limited; (5) ORS 192.490(3) requires the award of attorneys fees so long as a statutory proceeding was brought and the plaintiff prevails with respect to his or her claim; and (6) the trial court’s refusal to award attorney fees for violation of the Public Meetings Law was discretionary and the court’s refusal was not an abuse of discretion.

Barker v. City of Portland, 67 Or App 23, 676 P2d 1391 (1984).

Portland City Council convened in executive session to conduct deliberations with persons designated by the council to negotiate with city unions, including the Portland Police ssociation. Plaintiff, editor of a newspaper published on behalf of the Association of the Oregon Council of Police Associations, was excluded from the meeting while the other representatives of news media were allowed to attend. Plaintiff argued that a public body is not authorized to selectively exclude representatives of the news media from executive sessions held to discuss labor relations matters. Court held that members of news media are statutorily denied right to attend executive sessions held for the purpose of discussing labor negotiations (ORS 192.660(1)(d). Therefore, the council’s decision to exclude plaintiff and not other representatives of the news media was “purely a matter of discretion and is not governed by the [Public Meetings] act.”

Gilmore v. Board of Psychologist Examiners, 81 Or App 321, 725 P2d 400, rev den 302 Or 460, 730 P2d 1250 (1986).

Psychologist petitioned for review of revocation of her license. She alleged that the revocation was invalid because the board’s public meetings minutes, kept in accordance with the Public Meetings Law, ORS 192.650(1), showed no record that a vote was taken on the revocation. Petitioner did not contend that the failure to record a vote resulted in or was caused by any “manipulation of the rule of the members against petitioner.” The court upheld the revocation, finding that absent “a showing of prejudice, petitioner has not rebutted the presumption that public officers perform their duties lawfully. ORS 40.135(1)(j). The absence of a recorded vote alone is not reversible error.”

South Benton Ed. Assn. v. Monroe Union High, 83 Or App 425, 732 P2d 58, rev den 303 Or 331, 736 P2d 565 (1987).

The school district sought review of an unfair labor practice order, issued because the district had refused to sign an agreement reached through collective bargaining with the association. The court had to consider the Public Meetings Law in conjunction with the Public Employes Collective Bargaining Act, ORS 243.650 to 243.782, and other statutes governing school district contracting. The Public Meetings Law allowed the district to conduct in executive session, “deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to carry on labor negotiations,” ORS 192.660 (1)(d), but prohibited the district from holding an executive session “for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decision,” ORS 192.660(4). The collective bargaining statutes relating to school districts, ORS 332.057 and 332.255, appeared to require school board approval of a collective bargaining agreement before it could be enforced. Finally, ORS 243.672(1)(h) defined as an unfair labor practice a refusal to sign an agreement previously reached by collective bargaining. Reading these statutes together, the court affirmed the unfair labor practice order, and held that “offers made by a negotiator as a result of executive sessions [are] binding * * *. * * * District can still comply with * * * ORS 192.630 by ratifying the agreement at a public meeting after proper notice.” ORS 192.630 does not prevent a collective bargaining agreement previously reached through negotiations from being enforceable against the district, where the negotiations were conducted a at an executive session meeting.

Barker v. City of Portland, 94 Or App 762, 767 P2d 460 (1989).

Action by monthly newspaper and its editor seeking ruling that the city acted in violation of the Public Meetings Law, and an order that the city comply with ORS 192.630 in the future. The Court of Appeals held that ORS 192.680(1) provides for such relief, even if a public body has ceased its previous unlawful practices. A public body’s cessation of improper meetings practices does not render an action under the Public Meetings Law moot, because any illegal action that may have been taken previously is not legalized by the cessation, but remains illegal.

The court also held that the plaintiffs, as representatives of the press and as legal entities, alleged sufficient facts to accord them standing under the Public Meetings Law.

Finally, the court held that the circuit court is the appropriate forum to hear actions under the Public Meetings Law, ORS 192.680.

Oreg. Assoc. of Classified Emp. v. Salem-Keizer, 95 Or App 28, 767 P2d 1365, rev den 307 Or 719, 773 P2d 774 (1989).

Plaintiff labor association alleged that defendant school district violated Public Meetings Law by making decision during unauthorized emergency meeting. The Court of Appeals held that no “actual emergency,” ORS 192.640(3), existed as to the matter that was the subject of the decision; existence of actual emergency as to a different matter did not justify making decision on other nonemergency matters without complying with statutory notice requirements.

The court also held that inconvenience of the members of a governing body does not constitute an “actual emergency.”

Finally, the court held that any remedy granted under the Public Meetings Law must focus on the purposes and policies of the meetings law.

Oregonian Publishing Co. v. Board of Parole, 95 Or App 501, 769 P2d 795 (1989) .

ORS 192.690, which exempts the Board of Parole’s “deliberations” from the Public Meetings Law, does not exempt from the application of the meetings law the portions of a board meeting when the board is gathering information upon which it will deliberate and decide.

Harris v. Nordquist, 96 Or App 19, 771 P2d 637 (1989).

Plaintiffs, who alleged that they are residents, employees and taxpayers of defendant school district who are vitally interested in the district’s decisions and the information leading to those decisions, alleged sufficient facts to demonstrate standing to challenge the district’s alleged Public Meetings Law violations.

Where the evidence showed that the defendant board members did not meet in secret for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter, and never discussed board business at any of their private gatherings, defendants did not violate ORS 192.630(2).

The court also held that, under ORS 192.695, the burden of proof shifts to defendants only after a plaintiff makes a prima facie case that a quorum of a governing body has met in private for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter.

In addition, the court held that ORS 192.650 does not require minutes of prohibited meetings.

Finally, the court held that ORS 192.650 requires minutes to be preserved for a reasonable time after a meeting, and that in this instance, one year was a reasonable time.

Students for Ethical Treatment v. Inst. Animal Care, 113 Or App 523, 833 P2d 337 (1992).

Plaintiffs whose goals are to educate the public about animal exploitation have standing under ORS 192.680(2) to seek declaration that university committee charged with ensuring that animal research meets applicable standards violated Public Meetings Law because committee decisions, and information on which those decisions are made, have potential impact on plaintiffs’ ability to perform that educational role.

Indep. Contractors Research Inst. v. DAS, 207 Or App 78, 139 P3d 995 (2006).

Petitioners challenged the validity of a rule promulgated by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) that exempted from the Public Meetings Law the meetings of an advisory council that made recommendations to DAS’s Chief Procurement Officer about a program to make purchases from qualified rehabilitation facilities. The court held that the rule was valid. It reasoned that, to be subject to the Public Meetings Law, an entity must (1) make decisions for or recommendations to (2) an entity that meets the definition of a “public body” under the Public Meetings Law. An individual, even one who is an officer of a named group, is not a “public body,” therefore; the rule properly exempted the advisory council from the Public Meetings Law.

Krisor v. Henry, 256 Or App  56, 300 P3d 199 (2013).

Plaintiff brought an action against the members of the Lake County Fair Board, seeking to void the board’s decision to appoint an individual to the position of maintenance technician. Plaintiff alleged that the appointment took place at a meeting held without public notice, in violation of the Oregon Public Meetings Law. Plaintiff sought to void the appointment of the individual and requested an award of attorney fees and costs. The individual’s employment with the Fair Board terminated before the case went to trial. The Court of Appeals dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal as moot. Because the individual was no longer employed as a maintenance technician, the Court could not provide the substantive relief requested by Plaintiff.