Gazette-Times (OR) Editorial: Lawsuit seeks access to bill requests

It’s another disappointment from a governor who pledged when she assumed office that transparency in state government would be a priority. Transparency was, Kate Brown said, an essential ingredient in her efforts to restore trust in state government.

Brown’s record on transparency since then, however, has been spotty. Although it’s true that she has been on the side of government openness from time to time, she has not been the unwavering advocate of transparency that she pledged to be when she took over the office of governor after John Kitzhaber’s resignation.

So a new development regarding state government documents that used to be open to public inspection is disappointing, but not entirely surprising.

At issue are documents in which various state agencies propose legislative concepts to the governor. In these documents, the agencies identify the issues they want to resolve and suggest how the law can be changed to address the issues. The governor then decides which proposals move forward to the Office of Legislative Counsel, which drafts bills for legislative consideration.

Each year since 2010, these documents produced by state agencies have been open to the public — or, at least, have been released to a Portland attorney, Greg Chaimov, whose law firm has made a habit of asking for the documents under the Oregon Public Records Law. Chaimov has used the documents to inform his clients about pending proposals that might affect them.

This year, however, the state Department of Administrative Services refused Chaimov’s request, arguing that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. Chaimov appealed the ruling, but it was upheld by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. (Read more…)