Lawmakers Respond To Largest Public Meeting Law Scandal In Oregon History By Trying To Gut Oregon’s Public Meeting Laws.
By Taxpayer Association of Oregon
Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) is pushing legislation (SB 1526)to weaken Oregon Public Meeting Law by allowing elected officials to make decisions privately through email and serial one-on-one meetings behind closed doors. The legislation is being proposed in direct response to a case last year in which the Lane County Commissioners was found to have violated Oregon Public Meeting Law after a three day trial. Two individual commissioners involved in the case, Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson (both Democrats), were found guilty of violating the law willfully and each commissioner was required pay $20,000 for their misconduct.
Now, Senator Prozanski and other Democrats are seeking to change Oregon Public Meeting Law so as to legalize the illegal conduct that occurred in the Lane County case! While the Register Guard quotes Senator Prozanski as saying the Lane County ruling “shuts down the ability for government to function” there is no evidence that local government has shut down since the case was decided, either in Lane County or anywhere else. Instead, it appears the case is having the positive effect of causing local government officials across the state to actually make their decisions in public meetings, rather than behind closed doors.
Oregon’s public meeting laws were originally enacted in the 1970’s as a direct reaction to the Watergate scandal. Today, following the biggest public meeting scandal in Oregon history, the legislature is proposing to respond by weakening Oregon’s public meeting laws, rather applauding the success of the law in holding government officials accountable. Ironically, lawmakers are making this push to weaken Oregon’s Public Meeting Laws in a short one-month session where the opportunity for public input is necessarily limited and the issue cannot possibly receive the attention it demands and deserves.
The policy of Oregon’s Public Meeting Laws is simple and clearly stated in statute as follows:
“The Oregon form of government requires an informed public aware of the deliberations and decisions of governing bodies and the information upon which such decisions were made. It is the intent of ORS 192.610 to 192.690 that decisions of governing bodies be arrived at openly.”
Link to Register Guard Article: