Email Shows Governor's Staff Intentionally Circumventing Public Records Laws
Salem, Ore. - Senate Republicans released a document obtained through a public records request revealing staff to both disgraced former Governor John Kitzhaber and current Governor Kate Brown intentionally directed attorneys to avoid putting sensitive information in writing to circumvent Oregon's public records laws. An email from Governor Brown's Natural Resources Policy Adviser, Richard Whitman, reveals a continued culture of corruption first established under Governor Kitzhaber that plagues the Governor's office today.
In December 2014, Whitman expressed concern in an email to an attorney for the Umatilla Tribes about putting potentially controversial opinions and information in writing, saying,
"I understand that there may be a letter forthcoming from the Tribal Council concerning NOWA's efforts to identify opportunities for improved water resources management in the basin. Although I understand the need, on occaision [sic], to make a public record on issues, I also know the worth of opportunities for frank exchanges of views. In general, I would appreciate it if there would be a direct conversation on issues such as these before letters are sent."
Governor Kate Brown, despite making various public statements proclaiming her commitment to strengthening Oregon's public transparency and ethics laws, chose to keep several advisers to Governor Kitzhaber on her staff, including Whitman.
"Governor Brown continues to mislead Oregonians, talking about strengthening accountability and transparency in Oregon government while her actions prove she has very different priorities," said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day). "Her decision to retain key advisers from Governor Kitzhaber's administration - who we now know avoid interactions that could hold them accountable to the public and require others to do the same - shows she would rather surround herself with 'yes-people' instead of rebuilding Oregonians' trust in our government and restoring accountability to the Governor's office. The Kitzhaber culture of corruption continues."
Senate Republicans also called for an immediate explanation from Richard Whitman and Governor Brown about this apparent policy of avoiding establishing a public record on issues that affect Oregonians.
To view the email from Richard Whitman, click here.