Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual 2019

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    Introduction

    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the 2017 legislative session, which saw the most significant reforms to the Oregon Public Records Law since it was originally enacted in 1973.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
    Attorney General

    Preface

    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:

    Renumbering of Public Record Law

    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
    192.405 192.385
    192.410 192.311
    192.420 192.314
    192.423 192.360
    192.430 192.318
    192.435 192.365
    192.437 192.363
    192.440 192.324
    192.445 192.368
    192.447 192.371
    192.448 192.374
    192.450(1)-(3) 192.411
    192.450(4)-(7) 192.401
    192.460 192.415
    192.465 192.418
    192.470 192.422
    192.480 192.427
    192.490 192.431
    192.493 192.395
    192.495 192.390
    192.496 192.398
    192.497 192.380
    192.501 192.345
    192.502 192.355
    192.504 192.377
    192.505 192.338