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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oregon Gov Signs FOI Improvements Bills...

This just in...

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed two bills to accelerate requests for public records and require the release of some information that would be confidential otherwise under attorney-client privilege.

After a June 22 signing ceremony, Kulongoski said Oregon needs to put the public back into its 1973 public-records law, which has been eroded over the years by exemptions approved by lawmakers putting various records out of the public's reach.

"This is a change in direction," Kulongoski said at the signing ceremony. "Maybe it is the first step that we will try to correct a number of these problems."

One of the bills signed by Kulongoski requires government agencies to respond without delay to requests for public documents.

The other requires government agencies to release a condensed version of information that agencies otherwise could withhold from disclosure because of confidentiality of communications between agencies and the lawyers who represent them.

That bill stemmed from a case in which the Klamath County School District hired a lawyer to conduct an investigation into alleged mismanagement. The school board denied a citizen's request for disclosure of the results or the advice given by the lawyer after the investigation.

Both open-records bills — S.B. 554 and S.B. 671 — originated in the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland.

"This is the first time in many years that we have taken a major step to make the public-records law more accessible to citizens," Burdick said at the bill-signing ceremony.

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