The 2019 Public Records and Meetings Manual is available in PDF » and HTML format. The HTML version is accessed by the Table of Contents, Search and the Quick Links on the right. If you are a public employee or board member using the manual for public business, or if you are using the manual in connection with for-profit activity, we ask that you purchase a print version via our Publications Order Form (PDF) ».
It is a particular pleasure to introduce this year’s edition of the Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual. This is the first edition since the 2017 legislative session, which saw the most significant reforms to the Oregon Public Records Law since it was originally enacted in 1973. A trio of bills—Senate Bills 481 and 106, and House Bill 2101—promise to breathe new life into the law. For forty years, the public records law had seen little change other than the steady addition of new exemptions that keep information out of public view. Taken together the bills accomplish several important things to improve Oregonians’ access to their government:
- Establish clear expectations for the timing of public records requests (with narrow exceptions for small public bodies or unusual circumstances), and give requesters an express right to seek review when they believe that a public body is unduly delaying response to a request (SB 481).
- Provide public bodies with protections from liability and other negative consequences resulting from disclosures of public records, to encourage a culture of transparency within government (SB 481).
- Begin to address more than 500 exemptions from public disclosure requirements, by requiring my office to catalog existing exemptions (SB 481) and work with a newly formed Sunshine Committee to review exemptions and recommend changes to a legislative committee created to work on public records issues (HB 2101).
- Provide government and members of the public with access to an independent Public Records Advocate empowered to resolve public records disputes quickly and informally, and to provide training and resources on the requirements of the law (SB 106).
Much of the credit for these improvements goes to the Attorney General’s Public Records Law Reform Task Force, which started its work in October 2015. Senate Bill 481 was a direct result of the task force’s effort. Sincere thanks to Michael Kron, my Special Counsel, for chairing the Task Force with grace, enthusiasm, and intelligence.
House Bill 2101 was championed by Representative John Huffman, a task force member, while Senate Bill 106 was proposed by Governor Kate Brown, who was also represented on the task force. Like many other Oregonians who care about transparency, I am very grateful to each member of the group for their contributions to this important work:
- Senator Jeff Kruse (R, Roseburg)
- Senator Lee Beyer (D, Springfield)
- Representative Ken Helm (D, Washington County)
- Representative John Huffman (R, The Dalles)
- Gina Zejdlik (past representative of Governor Kate Brown)
- Ben Souede (past representative of Governor Kate Brown)
- Emily Matasar (Governor Kate Brown)
- Robert Taylor (past representative of former Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins)
- Phil Lemman (Oregon Judicial Department)
- Josh Nasbe (past representative of Oregon Judicial Department)
- Jesse Ellis O’Brien (OSPIRG)
- Dave Rosenfeld (past representative of OSPIRG)
- Betty Reynolds (public member)
- Les Zaitz (past representative of the Society of Professional Journalists)
- Nick Budnick (Society of Professional Journalists)
- Jeb Bladine (Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association)
- Keith Shipman (Oregon Association of Broadcasters)
- John Tamerlano (past representative of Oregon Association of Broadcasters
- Rob Bovett (Association of Oregon Counties)
- Scott Winkels (League of Oregon Cities)
- Mark Landauer (Special Districts Association of Oregon)
I am very proud of the accomplishments of the task force, and I am committed to continuing our work in favor of transparent and accountable government. This revised version of the Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual—which traces its existence back to 1973—reflects that commitment. I am grateful to Michael, as well as to Assistant Attorney General Noah Ellenberg, Legal Secretary Nancy Barrera, Assistant Attorney General Erika Hamilton, and Paralegals Emily Anderson and Kim Nguyen for their contributions to this new edition.
ELLEN F. ROSENBLUM
This Manual is organized in two parts: Part I discusses the Public Records Law; Part II discusses the Public Meetings Law. Each part is followed by its own set of appendices, which include answers to commonly asked questions about the law; sample forms; summaries of court decisions, Attorney General opinions and public records orders; and a reprint of the statutes.
The Manual cites to various types of sources in the footnotes:
- A cite to “ORS” refers to the Oregon Revised Statues, which are available at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/Pages/ORS.aspx ».
- A cite to “OAR” refers to a rule adopted by a state agency. Rules are available at https://secure.sos.state.or.us/oard/ruleSearch.action ».
- A cite to “Or” refers to an opinion by the Oregon Supreme Court, while a cite to “Or App” refers to an opinion by the Oregon Court of Appeals. Opinions issued since January 1998 are available at https://cdm17027.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/ », while older opinions may be found at sites like Google Scholar and at law libraries.
- A cite to “Op Atty Gen” refers to an opinion by the Oregon Attorney General, while a cite to “Letter of Advice” refers to an opinion by the Oregon Department of Justice’s Chief Counsel of the General Counsel Division. Opinions issued since January 1997 are available at https://www.doj.state.or.us/oregon-department-of-justice/office-of-the-attorney-general/attorney-general-opinions/, while older opinions may be found at law libraries or by submitting a public records request to the Oregon Department of Justice.
- A cite to a “Public Records Order” refers to decisions by the Office of the Oregon Attorney General interpreting Oregon’s Public Records Law. Orders issued since 1981 are available at https://cdm17027.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p17027coll2 ». Keep in mind that older orders may have been superseded by legislative action, opinions of Oregon’s appellate courts, or newer public records orders.
The Public Records Law was significantly renumbered in the 2017 version of the Oregon Revised Statutes. The below table provides a guide to that renumbering.
|2015 ORS||2017 ORS|