Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ORS 192

Our government is supposed to be responsive to the people, and that responsiveness is protected by two principles:
  • The workings of government should be visible to the public.
  • If the public doesn't like what it sees, it can replace the government.
Oregon has a law called ORS 192 which guarantees public visibility into the workings of government by making most government proceedings and documents public. (If you don't like what you see, you should check out the processes for election and recall of elected officials in ORS 249.)

I've been studying ORS 192 since many parts of it apply to me when I take office. For example, all my email related to my work on City Council will be public record, and can be requested if you are really bored some day. Remember, that rule also applies to email you send to me about city business, so be civil! You also have the right to watch us work at any of our meetings (with very few exceptions). I highly recommend you do it at least once-- we meet every other Monday at 6PM. You can check the agenda online to pick a meeting which includes something you care about.

Here are some interesting facts about the meeting laws:
  • City Councilors need to avoid getting together in groups of 4 or more except during scheduled meetings. A group of 4 council members could make decisions which would be illegal if they haven't provided for the public to view the deliberations.
  • Conference calls are public meetings. The public has a right to listen in.
  • Email is a gray area. Council member have to be careful when they send email to 3 or more other councilors, since the "back and forth" could become the electronic equivalent of a meeting, which needs to be public.
While I'm at it, here's a nice tidbit I found in the ethics rules. Oregon does not have a dollar limit on the amount of food or drink an elected official can accept-- but the official is required to consume the food and drink in the presence of the purchaser. No takeout or doggie bags.


At 10:05 AM, Blogger Z said...

Communications that occur serially may violate Open Meetings laws. Councilor one emails councilor two who emails councilor three and four. Four representatives in a serial and not open meeting! Be Careful and have fun!


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