REMARKS AS PREPARED
SB 9 Bill Signing - Remarks
June 15, 2015
Today, I am very pleased to sign Senate Bill 9 into law. The first of three ethics bills I sponsored after taking office, this legislation directs the State Auditor in the Secretary of State’s Office to conduct a performance audit of state agency practices in disclosing and retaining public records, in fact, I have been apprised that the audit is already underway.
Over the years, various aspects of Oregon’s public records law have been modified in isolation, like a Victorian house that has been remodeled one room at a time by multiple owners over the course of several decades. The 400-plus exemptions spread throughout our 838 chapters of the Oregon Revised Statutes have contributed to a system that can mystify and stymie members of the public seeking to access information intended to be accessible to them.
Additionally, this myriad of exemptions often requires review by the agency's legal counsel prior to release to ensure records are being disclosed or withheld appropriately. This review takes time, expertise and resources.
We hear anecdotally that agency responses to public records requests vary greatly. This audit will help provide empirical answers to questions like: What training do agency staff receive about managing public records? Do they have retention schedules? Do they respond in a timely fashion? How are costs or charges determined?
This audit is not a hunt for bad actors; instead, it will provide information for a system-wide solution. Significantly, the auditors are tasked with the responsibility of identifying best practices in two main areas: (1) best practices for complying with public records laws in a timely and efficient manner and (2) best practices for using technology to retain and manage public records.
Oregon's government belongs to its people. In the aftermath of a major scandal that undermined the public's trust in the state's highest office, it's my job to see that we move forward with integrity and transparency. My ethics package, HB 2019, HB 2020 and Senate Bill 9, is an important step in restoring public trust in state government. SB 9's audit will provide fact-based solutions and best practices to policymakers so that we can improve information access and transparency. Thank you for your support of this important work.