National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Final tally for Portland schools over public records disputes? Nearly $280,000

Portland Public Schools will pay an additional $105,000 to cover legal fees in a dispute that began when the district refused to release the names of staffers it had put on paid leave, the school board decided Tuesday.

That puts the total bill for the district-initiated lawsuit at just over $277,000, which is 38 percent higher than the district estimated in October.

In 2016, journalist Beth Slovic, then writing for The Portland Tribune, and parent Kim Sordyl requested a list of staffers the district had on paid leave. The district denied the request, though it had provided the records in the past.

When the women appealed the denial to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, the DA told the school to hand over the records. That’s when a district lawyer, who has since left PPS, recommended that the school district sue the journalist and the parent to see if the court would block the release of the records. The move was made before Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero was hired.

The school district sued because officials said they “needed clarity” on an exemption in the state’s public records law they cited to deny Sordyl and Slovic’s request. A judge rule against the district in May 2018 and subsequently ordered it to cough up the cash to pay the pair’s legal fees.

  (Read more…)