Last week wasn’t a good week for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, but the political problems were of her own making.
No candidate, two weeks before the election, wants to deal with a single story about being prompted to release public information.
Brown had to deal with two.
We can’t know how this pair of miscues will affect Brown’s race against Republican Knute Buehler, which polls show is close. But the episodes cast considerable doubt on Brown’s sincerity when she said in February 2015, just after replacing John Kitzhaber as governor, that “we also must strengthen laws to ensure timely release of public documents.”
Based on that statement it seems passing strange that a state judge had to order Brown’s administration to release about 250 bill proposals that could be introduced to the Oregon Legislature early in 2019.
(The Appeals Court on Friday overturned that judge’s decision and granted a stay to keep the proposals confidential until after the election.)
Those proposals, which would hint at at least some of Brown’s priorities should she be re-elected, have in the past been readily available.
But this year state officials contend those bill proposals, also known as legislative concepts, are protected by attorney-client privilege because they were written by legislative lawyers.
Judge Audrey Boyles of Marion County Circuit Court disagreed. Unfortunately, the Appeals Court’s ruling enables Brown’s administration to depart from past practice regarding legislative concepts.
The second issue involves the state’s annual school performance ratings reports. These have traditionally been released in October, and school districts have had the current reports since Oct. 4, with a planned release date of Oct. 25.
But earlier this month, state education officials told school administrators that the reports would be withheld from public release until after the Nov. 6 election.
Colt Gill, whom Brown appointed as director of the state Department of Education, said he made the decision without asking Brown’s opinion. After widespread complaints about the delay, Brown ordered the school reports to be released on Wednesday.
Predictably, Buehler sought to capitalize on the hastily reversed decision about releasing the school reports.
It’s not clear where the impetus was in either of these attempts to thwart Oregonians from having access to public records to which they’re legally entitled.
But that’s not the point. Brown is the governor, and she is responsible for the actions — or in this case, inactions — of her administration.
And in contrast to her rhetoric from 2015, Brown seems rather less committed to disclosing public records than her words led us to believe.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.