This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 19, 2011 8:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was David Wu has some issues. The next post in this blog is 213% cost overrun on Portland's mission creep "water house". Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pushing envelope on open meetings law suddenly gets spendy

Here's a story that's going to shake some politicians and public board members up, but good: A judge has held two Lane County commissioners personally liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees in a lawsuit accusing them of violating the state's public meetings law dispute. The pair were found to have "scripted" their vote ahead of time.

Which, of course, is what most public bodies in Oregon do. I remember the Portland Development Commission meeting where the board members took a bunch of public testimony and then immediately announced their decision on the matter, reading from extensive prepared scripts.

Just because the commissioners are careful to meet only one on one isn't enough, according to the judge, to ensure compliance with the open meetings law.

You can bet that all your favorite politicians and bureaucrats will be reading the written opinion when it comes out. In the meantime, the Eugene paper has great coverage here.

Comments (16)

We could have used a guy like Judge Michael Gillespie back when the Mean Girls were running things in MutCo!

Does anybody know anything about this Judge Gillespie?

Besides the fact he did more for government transparency in one day than John Kroger has done in 2 years.

Wow. I would guess that literally every city or county body is guilty of this. If not every one than 98% of them.

This will be a big win for transparency if it stands.

You don't have to wait for the opinion to come out.

If you go to the link provided in Bojack's posting, and scroll down to the bottom of the newspaper article, you can download the entire 44-page opinion.

I believe that the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners violate the public meeting laws based on their indication that much business is done behind closed door before the meeting so that they can save time.

Re: "Which, of course, is what most public bodies in Oregon do."

Curiously, neighborhood associations (NAs) in OR have been explicitly excluded from the "sunshine" of open meeting requirements.

Curiously, neighborhood associations (NAs) in OR have been explicitly excluded from the "sunshine" of open meeting requirements.

Got a cite for that? For all their considerable flaws, as city-recognized entities the NAs have to adhere to public meeting laws by opening their public and board meetings to all, giving prior notice of meeting agendas, and publishing meeting minutes. If you've experienced otherwise, then you have a legitimate complaint you can bring to the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which regulates the NAs.

Gardner -

Your statement is incorrect. As a condition of "recognition" by the City Office of Neigghborhood Involvement, (ONI) each NA is required to have in its bylaws a provision adopting the policies set forth in the Oregon Open Meetings Law. The same is true of each of the regional coalitions (there are 7) which are recognized by ONI.

I am a director of a coalition and a chair of an NA.

On both levels, each group of which I am a member take very seriously the letter and intent of the Open Meetings Law.

I wish several governmental entities were half as careful as we are.

Bonus AG connection: the ruling notes that Handy's aide, Phyllis Barkhurst, formerly worked for Hardy Myers.

Nonny, I am glad to hear your NA does better than the one I was involved in. However, not all NA boards either understand the law or believe it applies to them.

Finally! Bless that judge. Time somebody remembered those laws were meant to end the kind of back room dealing that predominates in this venal system.

Now time to make UR districts require vote of the people whose districts will lose $$ to it. Not the officials of the districts, the voters of the districts.

It's about time that governments followed the spirit - and the letter of the law on everything, not just public meetings.

There is much more to do in this area. Did you know that members (owners, voters stockholders) of Oregon Electric Co-operatives - State sanctioned monopoly utility companies do not have the right to attend board meetings?

We, the "members" as owners or stockholders do not even have the right (for all practical purposes) to board of director contact information like phone numbers or e-mails. We do not even have the right to know who the board members really are!

For more information see http://www.reformwascoelectric.com

Maybe the Time is coming, based on Judge Gillespie's ruling. For example, the Portland Development Commission has been riding the thin rail of legality on several realms.

Conflict of Interest. Many votes are taken at the Commission, URAC levels where voting members are required to declare conflict, and many cases not vote.

Cases of Misrepresentation. The PDC Director stating in a letter to City Council that "some" members of a URAC "have concerns", while $10 Million was stolen from a URA where the whole URAC voted unanimously to oppose the taking.

Cases similar to Eugene's where decisions are made in small groups or a few individuals without a quorum, or following full discussion of the issue.

Time is here.

Lee - So maybe someone needs to sue the PDC and the SamRandFritzDanFishy city commishies.

Jheri, please remember that according to the PDC's own lawyers, it's impossible for URAC members to have a conflict of interest, because the URAC is an *advisory* committee.

I thought you got the memo.

Any lawsuits in the works, how many towards officials who do not care about the debt and implications for future generations?

Clicky Web Analytics