The following links will direct you to a HTML version of the manual. The manual is also available in PDF format (see PDF version). 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 (see Publications and Forms).
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 a reprint of the statutes.
Government transparency is vital to a healthy democracy. Public scrutiny helps ensure that government spends tax dollars wisely and works for the benefit of the people. Oregon's Public Records and Meetings Laws underscore the state's commitment to transparency. Government records are available to the public, and governing bodies must conduct deliberations and make decisions in the open.
The legislature has recognized exceptions to the general policy of openness. For example, the law protects the privacy of citizens whose confidential records are held by the government. And the law protects public safety by exempting from disclosure documents that would reveal security measures and investigatory documents that could compromise criminal investigations if disclosed.
The purpose of the Attorney General's Public Records and Public Meetings Manual is to explain how Oregon's government transparency laws work, and to identify the general exceptions that, in the legislature's judgment, sometimes justify withholding information from the public.
Following each legislative session, the Attorney General reviews and updates this manual for consistency with legislative changes to the Public Records and Public Meetings Laws, recent appellate court decisions interpreting these statutes, and Public Records Orders issued by the Department of Justice.
The 2010 manual introduces several changes. The most significant change is to suggest a timeframe within which public bodies should generally be able to respond to typical public records requests.
In making that change, and others, my office has striven to faithfully interpret the law in a manner consistent with the fundamental premise underlying both the Public Records and Public Meetings Laws. Namely, ambiguities in the law generally should be resolved in favor of the public's right to information. When public bodies do have the authority to exclude the public from some types of discussions, or withhold certain records from public view, that authority is only an exception to the general rule of openness. The scope of such an exception must be interpreted narrowly in order to preserve to the people of Oregon the power to understand and oversee the activities of their government.
This manual is an opinion of the Attorney General. Its principal purpose is to provide legal guidance to state agencies. As with any Attorney General's opinion, it is also intended to provide substantial assistance to local government and to the public generally. We appreciate comments and suggestions from users of this manual.
JOHN R. KROGER