Court finds school district waived confidentiality right
OREGON–A school district’s report detailing the alleged “misuse and theft” of school property by a high school principal and vice principal should be disclosed under the state’s open records law, a divided state appeals court in Salem held in early January.
Modifying an earlier opinion, the appeals court voted 2-1 that the Portland School District had waived its right to withhold because it had disclosed substantially all of the report’s contents at an unemployment compensation hearing for one of the affected principals.
During the unemployment compensation hearing, the Portland School Police officer who prepared the report testified about its contents. In Oregon, transcripts of unemployment compensation hearings are available to any person who files a written request and pays a fee.
The appeals court ruled that the intentional disclosure of substantially all of the investigation report at the unemployment compensation hearing constituted a waiver of the school district’s right to withhold the report.
The dissenting judge contended that testimony by the officer who prepared the report did not constitute waiver. The officer testified from memory about the investigation, the report was not offered into evidence and the officer did not have the report with him when he testified.
In July 1993, a reporter for The (Portland) Oregonian asked to review records relating to the alleged misuse and theft of school district property. Both the circuit court in Portland and the court of appeals in Salem ordered the report released. The district asked the appeals court to reconsider its decision, alleging that the court made a material mistake of fact. (Oregonian Publishing Company v. Portland School District, Media Counsel: Charles Hinkle, Portland)