Opinion from Sunshine Review:
As pension issues become increasingly prevalent in the news, it is no surprise that the latest lawsuit over the release of individual pension data in Oregon is getting national attention. Last week, seven unnamed Oregon retirees filed suit in Marion County Circuit Court seeking an injunction blocking the November 21, 2011 release of names and the monthly benefits of 110,000 retirees.
Since 2002, numerous FOIA requests made by local newspapers, The Oregonian and The Statesman-Journal, were repeatedly denied by the Oregon Public Employees Retirement system who claimed that the information was exempt from release under the state’s public records law, except in cases of more prominent retirees. Nonetheless, the persistence of the two newspapers ultimately led to an undisclosed legal settlement reached in September in which PERS agreed to release the information to the public in November.
Outraged, the retirees hired Portland lawyer Greg Hartman to represent the group fighting the settlement agreement. Primarily, PERS representatives and the retirees’ legal counsel relayed concerns that the release of the numbers will increase the retirees’ vulnerability to identity theft as well as represent an invasion of privacy. Ultimately, the courts will make the next move, but it is worth considering if there is such a thing as too much transparency.