"Oregon Public Meetings and Public Records Law were enacted by the Oregon legislature in 1973. These laws underscore the state's policy that the public is entitled to know how the public's business is conducted. Thus the written record of the conduct of the public's business is, with some important exceptions, available to any citizen. Similarly, the deliberations and decisions by public bodies are, for the most part, open to attendance by any interested person." Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004.
Under ORS 192.420 "every person" has a right to inspect any nonexempt public records of a public body in Oregon. Generally, the identity, motive and need of the person requesting access to public records are irrelevant. However, the identity and motive of the person seeking disclosure of a particular public record may be relevant in determining whether a record is exempt from disclosure under conditional exemption. ORS 192.501 conditionally exempts certain records from disclosure "unless the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance." The exemptions in ORS 192.501 call for a balancing of privacy rights, governmental issues and other confidentiality policies, on the one hand, and the public interest in disclosure on the other (excerpted from the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004).
ORS 192.420 broadly extends the coverage of the Public Records Law to any public body in this state. For purposes of the records law, ORS 192.410 defines the term "public body" as including:every state officer, agency, department, division, bureau, board and commission; every county and city governing body, school district, special district, municipal corporation, and any board, department, commission, council, or agency thereof; and any other public agency of this state.In a 1994 case, the Oregon Supreme Court held that if the entity is the "functional equivalent" of a public body, the Public Records Law applies to it. The court used the following factors to determine whether a private entity was a functional equivalent:
the entities origin (was it created by government?)
the nature of the function(s) assigned and performed by the entity (are these functions traditionally performed by government or are they commonly performed by a private entity.
the scope of the authority (does it have the authority to make binding decisions or only to make recommendations to a public body?)
the nature and level of any governmental financial and non-financial support
the scope of governmental control over the entity
the status of the entity's officers and employees (are they public employees?)
Even if the entity is not a functional equivalent of a public body, records of a private entity that has contracted with a public body may be obtained under the Public Records Las form the public body if the public body has custody of copies of the records. In addition, a public body by rule or contract may require private bodies with which it deals to make pertinent records available for public inspection. (excerpted from the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004).
Writing - any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business, including pictures, maps, sounds, symbols, videotapes, e-mail
Prepared, Owned, Used or Retained - all records, even those not originally prepared by the public body are subject
(excerpted from the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004).
General - Requests for records of Oregon public bodies must be made under the Oregon Public Records Law, not the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Public bodies should not deny a request for their records merely because the requestor calls it a FOIA; however, the FOIA timeframes and other requirements of the federal act would not apply.
Proper and Reasonable Opportunity to Inspect - A custodian of public records must provide "proper and reasonable" opportunities for inspection and examination of the records. The public body is also given a "reasonable" time to respond to a records request to allow for staff availability and determining if any records are exempt. The public body may consult with its legal counsel to determine whether records are exempt from disclosure and to receive advice on other questions relating to the Public Records Law.
Copying - Public Records Law requires a custodian of a public record to furnish a certified copy of the record on demand, if the record can be copied. The custodian must certify that the copy is a true copy of the record, if requested to do so. Requestors must be allowed to use their own equipment to make copies, subject to the protection of the integrity of the records and to prevent interference with the regular duties of the public body.
Protective Rules - A public body may adopt reasonable rules necessary to preserve the integrity of its records and to maintain office efficiency and order.
Fees - Public Records Law expressly authorizes a public body to establish fees "reasonably calculated to reimburse it for its actual cost in making such records available." Actual cost may include a charge for time spent by the public body's staff locating the requested records, reviewing the records in order to delete exempt material, supervising the person's inspection of the original documents, copying records, certifying documents or sending records. (excerpted from the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004).
Public Records Law is primarily a disclosure law, rather than a confidentiality law. Exemptions are few because the law favors public access to government records. A public body has the burden of proving that the record information is exempt from disclosure. For a list of exemptions, ask Marion County Legal Counsel or consult the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual. (excerpted from the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual, January, 2004).