LOC News

LOC Sticks to Principle on Public Records

Scott Winkels, the LOC’s representative on the state’s Public Records Advisory Council (PRAC), was the lone opposition this week to a proposal that would establish the office of the Public Records Advocate (PRA) as an independent agency, free of oversight by, or accountability to, an elected official.  The PRA currently holds independent discretion when mediating disputes between public records requestors and public agencies, and in developing training curriculum.  The dispute concerns the appropriate level of independence for the PRAC and PRA’s ability to seek legislative changes to public records law. 

LOC’s position on the proposal was consistent with our work on public records over the last several years and in-line with previous negotiated agreements.  When the offices of PRAC and PRA were established by legislation in 2017, the LOC advocated against holding the PRA separate from the rest of the executive branch, as that model has proven problematic in other agencies.  It’s the LOC’s position that increasing independence invariably reduces accountability. 

Additionally, the proposed changes would result in the PRAC hiring the PRA without Senate confirmation and give the PRA a vote on the full PRAC, the entity ostensibly charged with oversight and hiring and firing  authority of the position.  The League suggested an alternative structure similar to the Management/Labor Advisory Commission, which is used to monitor and vet workers compensation legislation, but the suggestion was rejected.

In a previous meeting, the LOC suggested the PRAC seek an objective third-party review of the circumstances surrounding the departure of the current PRA, but the group elected not to seek additional review.  The League believes that a reactionary change based on an incomplete understanding of the facts will not lead to a proper functioning public records agency.  The LOC will remain engaged on this issue, and continue to offer recommendations that allow for transparency with public records, but also provide for reasonable response time and cost recovery of public records requests.

Contact: Scott Winkels, Lobbyist - swinkels@orcities.org

Last Updated 10-4-19