PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon judge has ruled that some records created by local government officials are not public and do not have to be disclosed.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Thursday that the ruling was made in a lawsuit brought by 19-year-old Rory Bialostosky, who wants a city councilor’s notes made public.
The Clackamas County Circuit Court judge ruled last week that the public is not entitled to notes West Linn City Councilor Teri Cummings made during official meetings.
The judge says Oregon public records law written in the 1970s clearly and intentionally applies only to records of local government entities such as commissions and councils, not individual officials.
Cummings says the decision clarifies “an important legal point” for public officials.
Bialostosky represented himself but says he is seeking legal advice about a possible appeal.
Oregon’s public records advocate, Ginger McCall, said the judge’s position is at odds with the way she, the state archivist, the attorney general’s office, the Oregon League of Cities and “everybody” has interpreted the law and trained local officials to comply with it in the nearly five decades since it went into effect. She said she hopes the ruling is quickly appealed and expects the Court of Appeals will overturn it.
The law defines public bodies subject to disclosure requirements as including “every state officer, agency, department, division, bureau, board and commission; every county and city governing body, school district, special district, municipal corporation, and any board, department, commission, council, or agency thereof; and any other public agency of this state.” It only uses the word “officer” in connection with state government, not local ones.
Bialostosky argued that Cummings, in her role as a city councilor, is an agent of the West Linn City Council and thus is covered by the law. But the judge rejected that argument, saying state lawmakers clearly and intentionally applied the law only to records of local government entities, not individuals.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com