OFRI’s statute undermines its public benefit, and the state agency is not transparent about its statutory mandate to support the industry
Salem, OR—An audit released today by the Secretary of State’s Office finds that the Oregon Forest Resources Institute publicly presents itself as an objective, educational entity, but at times shares biased information and lacks transparency about its mandate to support and enhance the forest products industry. The audit, titled "OFRI’s statute undermines its public benefit, and the state agency is not transparent about its statutory mandate to support the industry," found the agency’s statute and a pattern of behavior has placed the agency’s credibility and public trust in Oregon government at risk.
"This audit demonstrates just how critical it is for publicly-funded agencies to be transparent and accountable to Oregonians. Without those key components, Oregonians lose faith in the very services whose purpose is to make a positive difference," said Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. "Public money should not be used to mislead the public — especially on a topic as complex and important as our state’s natural resources."
The audit found OFRI’s statutory mandate to support and enhance the forest products industry may compel the agency to issue oversimplified and misleading information that favors industry perspectives on complex forestry topics. Yet OFRI is not transparent about this mandate in its stated missions, strategic documents, or public messaging. OFRI’s public opinion research also suggests the agency is more focused on shifting public opinion to view current forest practices more favorably rather than increasing public knowledge about forestry.
"Proper use of public resources is vital to earning the trust of Oregonians," said Secretary Fagan. “The OFRI board and staff must improve transparency, develop quality control processes around educational materials, and build strong internal compliance controls."
Auditors found OFRI’s statute, including the structure of its Board of Directors, grants the agency wide-ranging authority with limited oversight and does not align with good governance practices. This statute has contributed to the ongoing confusion about the role the agency is intended to serve. The statute also creates compliance risks for OFRI as the agency has long engaged in activities that may fall outside of its statutory authority.
The Secretary of State’s Audits Division received a request from Oregon Governor Kate Brown to audit the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Upon review of the Governor’s request and in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Audits Division decided to conduct the audit.
Read the full audit on the Secretary of State website: https://sos.oregon.gov/audits/Documents/2021-21.pd...