THE BLOG
10/09/2014 04:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are Oregon DAs Hiding Public Business From Records Requests?

As you know, I have been conducting records requests for Oregon DAs emails regarding the possible misuse of federal grant funds to campaign against Measure 91.  This is difficult, as the arbiter of records requests in these counties are the district attorneys.  To his credit, Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis was forthcoming with emails from his accounts on the @co.clatsop.or.us email server.

The problem is that DA Marquis extensively uses another email address - coastda@gmail.com - to conduct the public's business as well.  From the intial @co.clatsop.or.us emails, as well as emails that DA Marquis has sent directly to me, I've discovered numerous instances where DA Marquis is using the @gmail.com address for public business.

That should make his gmail.com records publicly discoverable as well, but DA Marquis, through his county's community relations coordinator, Tom Bennett, doesn't seem to think so, telling me "Regarding your request for emails from Mr. Marquis' gmail account, these fall outside the scope of ORS 192.410(4)(a), which defines public records as those "prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body."

Tom Bennett, Clatsop Gmail Denial

I thought this is a bit troubling.  What good is an Open Records Law if its subjects can just move their public communications to private email addresses the public can't see?  So I consulted ORS 192.410, which reads:

(4)(a) Public record includes any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the publics business, including but not limited to court records, mortgages, and deed records, prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics.

So "any writing... relating to... public business... not limited to... records... retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics," huh?  Sounds like if the DA wrote public business on a napkin in crayon, it would be discoverable.  So, has DA Marquis used coastda@gmail.com for "public business"?

Here's one from @co.clatsop.or.us where DA Marquis is communicating with the Oregon Legislature, insisting the communication go through coastda@gmail.com...

Here's one where DA Marquis and Wasco County DA Nisley are discussing the use of "personal emails" when discussing political views to the media...

Here's the one DA Marquis was sending to the drug prevention teams four days after my records requests for DA Marquis & DA Leriche's county emails, where DA Marquis expresses that in the face of these "harassing and invasive" requests, "NOW Steve has a 'private' email addess - madrasda@gmail.com"...

Here's a website where DA Marquis,m representing himself in official capacity, is soliciting questions from the public regarding cases to coastda@gmail.com OR his @co.clatsop.or.us email...

Here is DA Marquis issuing a public press release on a double homicide in Seaside and soliciting input through his coastda@gmail.com address:

And here's a Letter to the Editor that DA Marquis wrote regarding elections, where he tells the public their contact for him as their District Attorney is coastda@gmail.com...

Does anyone out there NOT think that this is "any writing... relating to... public business... not limited to... records... retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics"?

I've forwarded all this as a complaint to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General.