Public records expert: Oregon gets F in transparency

Cites 'many, many mistakes' about public meetings

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's Sunshine Week, which highlights the public's ability to access information about the government, and also some of the challenges the public still faces to more transparency.

Attorney Duane Bosworth is a public records expert in Portland who has defended journalists and fought for access to officials' records and public meetings. He says openness is a hallmark of America's democracy.

While Oregon prides itself on not being corrupt and having a lot of public participation in government, Bosworth says the state could do much better.

"I would say it gets an F in transparency," he states. "And largely that's public records, but there are many, many mistakes made with regard to public meetings and making sure the public can attend and participate."

Bosworth touts the virtues of having openness in government and some of its successes, including investigations into problems with the jail and school system, wrongdoing by public officials and analysis of programs that aren't serving the public adequately.

Bosworth maintains the barriers to open records are growing, although they have shifted. While there are still fights over which documents can be withheld, cost is becoming the biggest burden.

"The costs that are imposed on individuals or the media in order to obtain records," he explains." And those instances very often make obtaining the records prohibitive, certainly for individuals but also for legacy media and others."

Bosworth says Oregon statute also allows a significant delay in providing records and that the law for waiving or reducing fees on records is poor.

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