A representative from a local advocacy group has filed a formal request with the Lane County District Attorney’s Office seeking the release of records from Greenhill Humane Society.
At issue is whether Greenhill — a private nonprofit that runs its own shelter but also receives public funds from the county to administer the First Avenue Shelter — is subject to Oregon’s public records laws regarding the work it does at First Avenue.
Greenhill took over the management of FAS from the county in 2012.
Debi McNamara of No Kill Lane County filed the public records petition review on Feb. 6. If the district attorney declines to enforce the request, the next step is a lawsuit, McNamara said in an email.
Greenhill says public records laws are not applicable here. “We’re a private nonprofit entity, not a government agency,” says Sasha Elliott, Greenhill’s communications manager. “As an independent contractor, not a government agency, we are not required to respond to public records requests.”
According to Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center and the lawyer who drafted the petition, “People in the community should be able to follow the money and request these public records.” She emphasizes that even though Greenhill is a nonprofit, the fact that it utilizes public funds makes all the difference. “The only reason the Oregon Public Records Act applies to them is because now they’re managing the public shelter,” she explains.
It will be the DA’s job to review the situation with Greenhill, Regan says, and decide “whether they can hide behind the fact they are a nonprofit and not disclose what they are doing with taxpayer money.”
McNamara says that the efforts to obtain records have gone on too long. She wrote in an email, “To date we have filed numerous public records requests both individually and through our attorneys, which were stonewalled, and now we have gone to the DA for assistance.”
In a statement, Greenhill says, “Current and historical information about all animals in the care of First Avenue Shelter since Greenhill began operating it on July 1, 2012, including those animals transferred to the Greenhill shelter, is readily available on the Lane County and city of Eugene websites.”
The specific records in question encompass a variety of documents, such as policy handbooks, euthanasia logs, financial reports and records pertaining to specific dogs, including Curly, Hawg and Kahlua, all impounded in 2012-13. Elliott says the request is also for verbal communications and reports about employees and volunteers.
Greenhill says it “readily provides information about organization policies, animals previously and currently in our care and 990 financial documents. This information is available on the organization’s website.”
All parties are awaiting the outcome of the review with the DA’s office.