SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday she would welcome an independent investigation of a baby’s death at an Oregon day care facility, responding to allegations from Republicans that the governor covered up the incident to save political face during her re-election campaign.
Republicans say Brown purposefully hid the fact that an infant died at a Lane County site that was previously cited for violating safety rules.
The death, which occurred in August, was only made public last week after an investigation by the Oregonian/OregonLive .
The state’s Early Learning Division is responsible for reporting deaths at licensed child care centers in a timely manner under federal requirements.
Brown confirmed that she was informed about the death when it occurred. Her office said in an email that the Early Learning Division did not post the death because it was subject to an ongoing investigation, which is the agency’s current practice.
Brown, who oversees the Early Learning Division, acknowledged flaws within the office, specifically with its Child Care Safety Portal, which is used to share complaints against licensed child care facilities.
Brown added that her office is working to make sure that agencies are doing a better job and ensure that regulations are stronger.
House Republican Leader Rep. Carl Wilson called for the Oregon Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to open a formal investigation into the death of the child.
“Thousands of young parents entrust the care of their children to day care providers, expecting their infants, toddlers and preschoolers to be in good hands at state-regulated centers,” said Wilson, a Grants Pass Republican. “Withholding this kind of information is completely unacceptable.”
Brown said she would be fine with an investigation and denied the incident was part of a political cover-up. She added that her office is responding to a trove of public records requests surrounding the death.
“Our office did not direct the Early Learning Division to hide this child’s death for political purposes,” Brown told reporters. “No child should die in our foster care system and no child should die in our child care system.”
Oregon’s child care system became a flash point in the campaign when the right-leaning group Priority Oregon ran political ads slamming the governor for failing to respond to news reports of children being injured or sickened in day care.
Follow Sarah Zimmerman on Twitter: @sarahzimm95 .