Kroger urged to fix public records response times

Chris Rizo Jan. 30, 2009, 1:00pm

John Kroger (D)

Bill Harbaugh

EUGENE, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is being urged to change the way state agencies respond to public information requests.

University of Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh says the state's public records laws are "horrible," but can be fixed immediately.

In an op-ed published Friday on the left-leaning blog Blue Oregon, Harbaugh said just as U.S. President Barack Obama overhauled the federal Freedom of Information Act, Oregon's attorney general can similarly ease access to the state's public documents.

"Our public records law gives too much discretion to state agencies and too little power to citizens who want to know what those agencies are doing. We need change. We can get it quickly," Harbaugh wrote.

Oregon law, he noted, does not say how long officials have to respond to public records requests.

Harbaugh said former Democratic Attorney General Hardy Myers routinely allowed state agencies take at least a month to produce even a single page document.

The public's only recourse is to petition the state attorney general to order the agency to comply with the state's open records laws.

Harbaugh called on Kroger, a Democrat, to enact the same five-day standard in the Beaver State that he said most other states use.

"In a pinch agencies could take longer, but only if they could justify it to the AG," he wrote. "Oregon would move, well, not to the front, but at least to the middle of the pack with respect to public records access."

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