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May-08-2007 17:56printcomments

Senator Calls HB 5048 An Affront to Oregon Public Records Laws

"One ten page document request from the City of Sheridan was claimed to create four hours of staff time at $25 per hour, plus a 10 cents a page charge. The total for the request: $101." Senator Gary George

Oregon capitol
Photo by: Tim King

(SALEM ) - State Sen. Gary George (R-Newberg) is decrying the lack of compliance by some state agencies with Oregon's Public Records laws. He says the latest affront comes in an “agency bill” introduced to the legislature directly by the Oregon Dept. of Transportation.

Under Oregon's Revised Statutes Chapter 192, government officials at any level of government in Oregon are required to allow public access to most records, as well as for citizens to obtain copies at reasonable rates.

George says ODOT's Deputy Director Michael Marsh's claim at a May 1st hearing before the Subcommittee on Transportation of Ways and Means that its House Bill 5048 contains routine charges are an “affront to the public's right to know what's going on in their government.”

Senator George and his staff have been digging into the practices of the state transportation agency. "ODOT Director Matt Garrett and his staff have often been less than forthcoming--even obstinate in their approach, including flat out refusing to turn over some requested public documents. To this date, a number of requests have gone unfulfilled to this Senate office."

House Bill 5048, introduced as an "agency bill" by the Dept. of Transportation reads in pertinent part:

Relating to financial administration of the Department of Transportation; and declaring an emergency.

SECTION 1. For the purpose of carrying out the provisions of ORS 291.055 (1)(e), the following new or increased fees to cover the costs of providing records, adopted by the Department of Transportation and approved by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, are approved:

(1) Photocopies....................................... $0.25 per page (2) Labor................................................ $25.00 per hour (3) Transmittal by electronic mail................ $5.00 per electronic mail (4) 3.5-inch computer disk or compact disk... $5.00 per disk (5) Facsimile........................................... $5.00 first page; $1.00 each additional page (6) Attorney fees..................................... $25.00 minimum

"If anything, fees should be decreased, not increased," explains Senator George. "In addition, every effort should be made to maximize the use of the internet for making public records available--without the need for an agency's time or its use as a 'clearing center.' We also need a complete outside review of fee structures of all state agencies from Open Oregon, a credible coalition specifically established to maintain the free flow of information."

The abuse of ORS 192 through arbitrary exorbitant fees is already been done. "This same twisted methodology has been used by a City in my Senate District to close off citizens from obtaining public records through feeing. One ten page document request from the City of Sheridan was claimed to create four hours of staff time at $25 per hour, plus a 10 cents a page charge. The total for the request: $101."

Since then, Sheridan City Manager Frank Sheridan--who unilaterally instituted this Sheridan fee structure--has increased staff time for public records requests to the sum of $35 per hour.

"HB 5048 would have a chilling effect on legislative offices attempting to get information in evaluating the Executive branch spending. But most important, the citizens, press, and legislators alike need quick and inexpensive access to public records to maintain freedom in our state," the Senator added.




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Patrick Cooney May 9, 2007 10:27 am (Pacific time)

Might have been sporting to check with the department before printing. The good senator refers to testimony during Ways and Means about routine fees the agency charges. Public Records Law requires agencies to notify requestors of costs in retrieving documents before proceding. To do that, the agency must establish what it costs in staff time to find and compile. All agencies, not just ODOT, must establich such fees.


Curmudgeon May 9, 2007 3:30 am (Pacific time)

We already pay taxes to support public agencies. We should not have to pay more just to get information from them. The legislature should enact a law that preempts any government agency from charging for information. I guarantee it would no longer take four hours of staff time to create a 10 page report.

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