9/13/2012 Update: I went to the interview for the first candidate, Lisa Thornton. She has been the Interim PR Officer since October. I was surprised to learn that under her the office has *never* granted a public interest fee-waiver, though she said they have granted some reductions. In general I think the office has been well run under her, particularly before the Berdahl/Hubin rescission of the Lariviere reforms. There are problems to be sure, but certainly a huge improvement from Denecke. At times she has been helpful as interim PRO, at times not. As an example of helpful I'd cite her response to my request last winter for Provost Bean's sabbatical contract, during the debates over whether Bean or Berdahl would become interim President. She provided the requested documents and more within hours and at no charge, and they were influential in the Senate Executive Committee's decision to support Berdahl over Bean. As an example of not helpful, I'd cite her response to my request for documents on OH air quality, explained at http://www.uomatters.com/2012/08/oregon-hall-air-not-any-more.html The documents on the Robin Holmes / EMU scandal came primarily from angry students, not from the PRO office, which still has not responded to this 8/23 response from an RG journalist: http://publicrecords.uoregon.edu/content/emu
The fee waiver question that came up at the end of Lisa's interview was very troubling. Journalists know that these fees are a common strategy for delaying the release of information and keeping it out of the news cycle. Given how obvious this is, I think it's in UO's best interest to save it for emergencies. It was disappointing to learn that under Lisa the office has never granted a public interest waiver.
There were two other candidates. Jennifer Davis from DEQ was the most impressive overall. Working part time she has handled almost as many PR requests as the UO office handles with two full time workers, and she has done it without the expensive specialized software that Liz Denecke bought, to no apparent effect. She came across as very professional and straightforward.
Interestingly, at UC - Irvine, public records are under the Provost's office. That was Mike Gottfredson, now UO President. At UC-I he had a simple fee policy: they do not charge fees unless you want dead tree copies, or maybe, if computer programming is needed to get the data:
What does it cost to make a request?
UO is way behind the curve on this. Fees for simple things like contracts can easily approach $100 and takes weeks to get, particularly if Randy Geller is involved. Here's our Public Records Office's policy:
The Office of Public Records charges for the actual cost of making available public records. Fees are based on the amount of staff time involved (calculated based on hourly rate of pay and benefits), a per-page fee for photocopies, and any mailing or delivery charges. Staff time includes locating,gathering, reviewing, summarizing, compiling, copying, monitoring (if a request is made to inspect records on-site), tailoring and redacting the public records.
Fee Reductions or WaiversPublic Interest: The Office of Public Records may reduce or waive fees when fulfilling public records requests that benefit the interests of the community or society as a whole (ORS 195.440(5)). If you would like to apply for a fee waiver, please provide a statement that conveys how your request meets this requirement and thus justifies redirecting the public’s resources away from the University’s primary mission of education to absorb some or all of the cost of your request.
Exceptions: Public record requests made for commercial purposes are ineligible for feereductions or waivers.Simple Requests: The Office of Public Records may waive the fee for fulfilling non-commercial, simple requests that clearly require less than one hour of university staff time. Because even straightforward requests incur administrative and institutional costs, typically no more than two fee waivers for such requests will be granted to any individual requestor within a calendar month.9/12/2012 updates coming later today.