Court Wrap-Up, Jan 10, the Transparency Files


As I said Friday night when I posted my last wrap-up, I was going to tackle the government transparency lawsuits separately because of just how much was going on. I promised Sunday, so here we are!

The first case we look at is Buel v. Caballero, a case where the City Auditor is getting sued for not fining the Ted Wheeler campaign for donations in excess of limits voted for by the city. The difficulty is for a time, the limit in question was found unconstitutional, but overturned on appeal and found to be constitutional.

Mr. Buel asserted that while the appeal was ongoing, Friends of Ted Wheeler should have restricted donations, but the court ended up finding that “it is well accepted that when a court rules a statute, rule, or other government enactment to be facially unconstitutional, the government will not enforce that enactment until and unless the lower court s ruling is altered by a superior court”, setting the bar too high to clear.

In other news of the city fighting to protect their own interests over those of it’s citizens, we have the case of the city suing government transparency attorney Alan Kessler. In July Mr. Kessler sent a public records request to the city for text message metadata (timestamps, number and message IDs) sent or received by city owned cell phones (starting in 2017), which the city wanted to heavily redact and charge a hefty sum of $100,000 (at a very generous estimate, enough to pay for a dedicated employee for an entire year to the request) to process. Mr. Kessler raised issues with these details with the county attorney’s office, as part of an appeal process, and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office sided with him, telling the city that they needed to provide the information with less redactions (which would also lower the costs).

The city disagreed with DA Schmidt’s determination, and decided to file in county court against Mr. Kessler to try to dodge their duties. Also included were statements by city employees who claim their rights would be violated if their information was to be made public. Keeping in mind that the information requested was very limited, this seems to be a challenge in just how much information the government can legally keep hidden from us.

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