The Cover Oregon saga has already brought several loyal state aides' heads to the chopping block—the latest execution orders coming last week after a damning report exposed senseless lapses in the oversight and management of a tech project that should have a major political priority.
But somehow the awfulness keeps getting worse. In a shockingly tone-deaf fit of pique, Cover Oregon officials brusquely escorted a reporter for the Lund Report out of a Cover Oregon legislative oversight committee meeting this week, while forcefully barring another reporter, for the Statesman-Journal, from ever getting through the door in the first place.
Turns out that may have been against the law. And the secrecy might have been because they didn't want anyone to know that no actual "oversight" was happening. (And it wasn't, according to the befuddled lawmakers on the committee.) This is what the Statesman-Journal's Hannah Hoffman had to say:
Cover Oregon officials have kept meetings of its Legislative Oversight Committee a secret for nearly two years, in apparent violation of Oregon’s public meetings law, the Statesman Journal has learned.
There is significant confusion about the role the committee was meant to play, who is in charge of it and how its meetings should be run.
It has received little press coverage, largely because its meetings were kept secret. Cover Oregon and the Legislature have not provided notice, agendas or minutes for any of them. The committee has met monthly since May 2012.
As a result, the public has been kept in the dark as to what Cover Oregon has been saying to the Oregon Legislature.
The committee has met at least 23 times and accomplished very little, members said. Cover Oregon staff set the agendas, the meeting times and the locations, handled the logistics and ran the meetings. Lawmakers merely showed up for what — they thought — were briefings, and unhelpful ones at that.
Cover Oregon officials insisted the meetings should be closed—and even some lawmakers initially agreed. But after the reporters fussed and pointed out all the reasons the meetings actually fell under Oregon's open meetings law? Something magical happened. Cover Oregon changed its mind. The meetings will now be open.
Even if they might not be meaningful.
[State Representative Mitch] Greenlick said it appears Cover Oregon officials were attempting to avoid further scrutiny during a difficult time.
“They probably had enough trouble without having to deal with us,” he said. “I think the last thing they wanted was another loose cannon firing at them.”