Online "lifestyle content platform" GoLocalPDX has posted a story alleging that over the course of a six-month investigation it has found that "the tangled relationship between Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and her husband, Willamette Week publisher Richard Meeker unveils a lack of boundaries between her office and his business interests."
It is unclear who wrote the story, headlined "INVESTIGATION: AG Rosenblum and Meeker’s Ownership in Willamette Week is a Tangled Web," as it is attributed to news staff. EW has asked GoLocal for the writer or writers' contact.
In this week's "Murmurs" column WW says that Byron Beck, a former WWcolumnist, left GoLocalPDX earlier this month and was the last of GoLocal's first round of editorial hires when it launched in 2014.
EWcontacted Willamette Weekeditor and publisher Mark Zuzman for comment on GoLocalPDX's allegations that the alt weekly via Meeker "received favoritism and in other cases his company benefitted economically by avoiding paying costs that other news organizations, the public, inmates and attorneys were requested to pay for preparing documents."
Meeker, who was WW's publisher for 32 years, stepped down in June of this year and will continue to supervise the company's papers in Santa Fe and Raleigh-Durham.
Current publisher Zusman tells EW via email, "that story is incorrect" as to GoLocal's allegation there is a "lack of boundaries."
And he says as to allegations about public records requests, "The story in GoLocal is not only incorrect, but it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of public records statutes."
The GoLocal story alleges that because Meeker is married to AG Rosenblum, the paper gets a "free ride" on records requests while others "were charged thousands."
The story incorrectly refers to Oregon's public records statute as Oregon's Freedom of Information Act.
According to the Oregon Department of Justice, "The statutory authority to request records of Oregon public bodies comes from the Oregon Public Records Law, not the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Nevertheless, public bodies should not deny a request for their records merely because the requester calls it a FOIA request."
GoLocal compares the lack of fees WW has been charged with fees an attorney and a prison inmate were charged, as well as charges it says it was accorded. Under Oregon's public records law, if a request is found in the public interest, fees may be waived.
In the story GoLocal makes some other allegations about public records requests that demonstrate some confusion over the laws in Oregon. It is not however the first to look into overlap between Meeker and Rosenblum's positions. KOIN did a story in April of this year about WW's use of Backpage for classified ads, sex trafficking and Rosenblum's work on ending sex trafficking. The Oregonian, on the other hand, has pointed out when WW has called Rosenblum out. WW abstained from covering the AG's race in 2012 to avoid ethics questions.
Despite the name "GoLocal," the news source lists a Rhode Island address on the Oregon secretary of state's website and the site GoLocal 24 says it runs GoLocalPDX along with Worcester and Providence sites.