Months after county administrator Liane Richardson was fired over changes she made to her pay, Lane County citizens still don’t know the whole story about what happened. Various news organizations, including Eugene Weekly, made public records requests for copies of the outside investigation by USO Consulting that examined the circumstances surrounding the compensation changes, but the county hasn’t released it in an unredacted form. The investigation found that Richardson violated county policy, but the county never gave any more details. The Register-Guard appealed the decision to withhold the full report to Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner and was turned down.
Lane County argued that it was required under state law to protect the identities of whistleblowing employees and that a section of Oregon’s public records law allows an agency to keep an investigation secret and only release a condensed version of the significant facts in the case, according to an Oct. 19 story the R-G did on its appeal to Gardner.
The redacted portions of the report totaled almost 30 pages. On Oct. 13 the R-G filed an appeal of the decision to withhold the full report with the Lane County Circuit Court, naming the Lane County Commission and Acting Administrator Alicia Hays. The case asks that the county “provide or cause to be disclosed for potential inspecting and copying” the full report, including the redacted pages, citing Oregon public records law. The case was filed by Wendy Baker, who is R-G counsel and a member of the Baker family that owns the newspaper.
The circuit court case, which says it seeks “a declaration” that the records are subject to disclosure, inspection and copying, doesn’t expressly seek injunctive relief ordering release of the unredacted report; it only asks for a declaration that the R-G has the right to inspect it.
Lane County did not respond to requests for comment on the case.