Bed Bugs and the Pathology of Secrecy

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the ...

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the typical flattened oval shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a textbook example of why sometimes secrecy seems like the right thing, when in fact it is precisely the wrong thing…

A bill that would shield certain bed bug data from public records law in an effort to encourage voluntary reporting passed in the House this morning.

House Bill 2131, which now heads to the Senate, passed on a 55-1 vote.

Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, said that bed bug infestations are a growing health concern in Oregon.

“Here’s the bill that you have been itching to vote on,” Kennemer told lawmakers on the House floor.

Under the bill, bed bug infestations reported by pest control operators to a public health authority would be kept confidential. The location of the infestation, identity of the property owner and information describing the infestation would be exempt from public records law.

Public health officials say that it would encourage voluntary reporting for data that is currently difficult to gather.

Pest control operators are not required to report bed bug infestations. If the information was released to the public, it could jeopardize the operator’s business with clients, supporters say.

“Collecting this new data allows public health (officials) to make data-driven decisions about prioritization of scarce resources for bed bug education, mitigation and assistance,” Kennemer said.

So, to translate: we have a public health concern. It could cause very real shame to those who have an infestation…so, if we keep this information from the public, it will incentivize those in arrears to clean up their act.

Nothing — absolutely nothing – supports that assumption. Logic defies it. And yet it emerges over and over in FOI issues: “hide it, and it will get better…” I am itching just thinking about it.

 

Boy Scout “Perversion Files” Public Oregon Court Rules

The Oregon Supreme Court has approved the release

History of the Boy Scouts of America

History of the Boy Scouts of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of 20,000 pages of so-called perversion files compiled by the Boy Scouts of America on suspected child molesters within the organization for more than 20 years, giving the public its first chance to review the records.

The files gathered from 1965 to 1985 came to light when they were used as evidence in a landmark Oregon lawsuit that ended in 2010 with a jury ruling that the Scouts had failed to protect a plaintiff who had been molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s.

The Scouts were ordered to pay the man $18.5 million and the case drew attention to the organization’s efforts to keep child molesters out of its leadership ranks.

The perversion files contain accusations against Scout leaders that ranged from child abuse to lesser offenses that would prohibit them from working in the Scouts. The organization, headquartered in Irving, Texas, has said the files have succeeded in keeping molesters out of the Scouts.

The Boy Scouts fought to keep the files sealed in the Oregon case. But a judge ruled that since the information was used at trial it was public record, prompting the organization to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.

A Multnomah County judge had said that the names of alleged victims and the people who reported the accusations should be kept private. The state Supreme Court agreed with his decision.

The Scouts argued opening the files could unfairly affect those who were suspected but never convicted of abuse. The organization also said that if the information were to go public it could prejudice potential jurors in future trials.

Media organizations, including The Associated Press, The Oregonian, The New York Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting, KGW-TV, and Courthouse News Service challenged the Scouts’ effort to keep the files under seal, arguing that their introduction by attorneys in the suit makes them public record.

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Oregon Ducks Say No Text Messages in Response to FOI Request…

mobile phone text message

Image via Wikipedia

In documents released by the University of Oregon today to OregonLive.com in response to media requests for information about the Ducks’ football recruiting, one notable item was missing: the text in 934 text messages.

Oregon’s Public Records Law, written in 1961, did not foresee a day when people would use mobile phones to conduct university business, let alone without uttering a word. So although the letter of the law requires UO and all other public agencies to keep records of all correspondence pertaining to their work, many do not save text messages.

Confusion reigns about whether and how to archive messages sent via text message, on Twitter and through Facebook, state archivist Mary Beth Herkert said. As a result, archivists advocated a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would broaden the definition of a public record and require public agencies to adopt written policies for retaining such records.

As revealed in media reports in March, in spring 2010, Oregon paid Houston-based recruiting consultant Willie Lyles $25,000 for a package of information and video highlights of players. The payment arrived a few weeks after highly-sought running back Lache Seastrunk signed with Oregon, raising the question of whether Lyles had steered Seastrunk or other players from Texas to the Ducks.

The Oregonian, among other media outlets, requested access to text messages between Oregon coaches coach Chip Kelly and running backs coach Gary Campbell, Lyles and his representatives from 2007 to March 4, 2011. But Oregon has no formal policy regarding the archiving of text messages, UO spokesman Phil Weiler said.

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Suggest a dataset…any dataset.

Thanks to whoever sent me this on Twitter today (I completely forgot) because it is waaaaaaaaay past AWESOME:

Simply send in a suggestion for a dataset you want online, and the state of Oregon reviews it, triages it and then puts it up if it’s public information. So cool!

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New State Transparency Site Launches in Oregon…very cool!

The state of Orego has rolled out a powerful new website that lets citizens easily customize their view of data from state agencies and comment right on the site, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services announced Tuesday.

The website, http://data.oregon.gov/, also lets visitors interact with state records, create their own charts, graphs, calendars and maps, and save them online. Visitors may even suggest new “datasets” for displaying information not yet available on the site.

“Our goal is to enable state government to interact more directly with the citizens of Oregon, and this new site is a powerful way to help make that happen,” said Kris Kautz, acting-director of the state Department of Administrative Services. “We want to transform the way government works, and that means making it easy for Oregonians to get information about agencies and offer their views about what they see.”

Kautz also noted that Oregon is among the first states to employ this new technology. The White House has used the technology since 2009, making available records on visits to the White House and staff salaries.

Oregon’s use of the technology is more far-reaching, Kautz said. The site displays information in a wide range of datasets, including state agencies’ expenditures, buildings leased by state government, salaries of state workers, state contracts with private businesses, and more than 60 others. Forty new datasets are already in the testing and evaluation stage. The offerings will continue to grow as viewers suggest more datasets.

 

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