SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s public records advocate has resigned after clashing with the state board she chairs over its efforts to make her office more independent from the governor.
In a resignation letter obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Public Records Advocate Becky Chiao wrote Tuesday that “a disagreement has arisen between me and at least one esteemed member of the Public Records Advisory Council regarding my actions. Rather than distract the group with a debate about this disagreement, after serious soul searching, I agree that my continued service in this role is not in the public interest.”
She appeared to be referring to a letter that council member and Malheur Enterprise and Salem Reporter editor and publisher Les Zaitz wrote to her on Friday, urging Chiao to withdraw her name from consideration by the state Senate, which was originally scheduled to vote on her confirmation earlier this month.
Gov. Kate Brown in August appointed Chiao to the job, subject to Senate confirmation. The council’s efforts before and after her appointment to get a bill passed to end the governor’s role hiring and firing the advocate were at the root of Chiao’s and the council’s disagreements. Brown supports shifting oversight of the advocate to the council.
The state Senate voted unanimously earlier this year to do so. But the House did not get a chance to vote on the bill due a Republican walkout, so the change did not take place.
Oregon’s public records advocate is tasked with helping resolve conflicts between members of the public and government workers over public records requests. The advocate also trains government workers on the state’s public records law, works with the public records council to prepare reports on how agencies are complying with the records law and issues recommendations to improve public records access. The previous advocate, Ginger McCall, resigned in 2019 and accused the governor’s administration of pressuring her to advance the administration’s positions on public records law even when she thought it not the best pathway to transparency.