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State board drops lawsuit against E. Oregon newspaper

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A state agency has dropped its lawsuit against a weekly Eastern Oregon newspaper that sought public records about a man charged in the kidnapping and killing of his ex-wife.

The records pertain to Anthony Montwheeler, who was discharged from the state mental hospital in December after telling the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board he had faked mental illness for 20 years to stay out of prison following a 1996 crime.

Montwheeler is now charged with aggravated murder after police say he killed his ex-wife in January and then collided head-on with a vehicle while fleeing police, killing the driver.

The Malheur Enterprise broke the story of Montwheeler's ruse and sought additional public records about the board's decision to release him.

After Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ordered the review board to release the records, the board responded by suing the newspaper. The suit was dropped Tuesday after Gov. Kate Brown intervened.

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Statement by Gov. Kate Brown:

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown issued the following statement regarding the Attorney General’s order to the Psychiatric Review Board (PSRB) to release public records related to the Tony Montwheeler case. The PSRB, while appointed by the Governor, is an independent board.

“Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the Tony Montwheeler case, I have asked the PSRB to dismiss its public records lawsuit, to fully comply with the Attorney General’s order, and to release the public records requested by the Malheur County Enterprise. The PSRB has agreed to take these actions immediately.

"Oregonians deserve a government that is transparent to the fullest extent permitted by law. No one requesting public records should be at risk of being sued by a state agency. I believe the public is best served by bringing this matter to an end now, rather than after a lengthy and costly litigation. 

"This issue highlights improvements that need to be made to the public records law when it comes to getting a legal determination from a court when the law is ambiguous. An agency that has legal concerns about an Attorney General's Order is currently forced under state law to sue the requestor. This is plain wrong. I have directed my staff to explore solutions that would provide for swift judicial resolution without filing a lawsuit against a requester."


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