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Kroger goes from champion to dawdler

What a difference a year makes.

In 2011, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced that he was launching the biggest reform of the state’s public records laws in 40 years.

This month, a judge determined Kroger’s Justice Department dragged its feet when faced with a valid public records request.

Kroger had seemed to understand what the problem was with Oregon’s public records law. He ordered a review when he took office. He held meetings around the state.

“There are far too many exemptions and there is vast uncertainty about how long it will take the public to get records and how much it will cost,” he said in 2011.

He put fixing the law at the top of his legislative agenda.

The fix foundered.

Even dependable supporters of public records laws, such as this newspaper and others, argued that Kroger’s changes were not going to make things better.

Kroger’s Justice Department has now been found by a Marion County Circuit Court judge to have committed the sort of delay he criticized.

Mark Long, the former interim director of the Oregon Energy Department, had filed suit against the Oregon Department of Justice. Last year, Long was in the middle of the dispute over whether staff in the Energy Department channeled work to a firm that was co-owned by Cylvia Hayes — Gov. John Kitzhaber’s partner. Long wanted documents to prove his side of the story. He successfully argued that Kroger’s department deliberately stonewalled release of documents, according to The Oregonian.

Being able to find out what government is doing is a fundamental part of democracy. It also can be critical for individuals who find the government arrayed against them.

Reed College has announced that Kroger will become its new president. We wish him much better success there than he had serving the public’s need for transparency in government.

— Wescom Wire Service (Bend Bulletin)

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