Judge decides PPS employee leave records are not secret
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Judith Matarazzo granted a summary motion May 11, agreeing that information about Portland Public Schools' employees paid leave status should be made public.
PPS filed a lawsuit in state court last year against former Tribune reporter Beth Slovic, now a Clark College journalism instructor, and parent activist Kim Sordyl, whose separate requests for leave information were both denied.
Under Oregon law, a denial from a local government agency to produce records can be appealed to their county's district attorney. Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill sided with Slovic and Sordyl that the information they sought should be public in a joint March 20, 2017 order.
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If the local government agency disagrees with its county's district attorney — as it did in this case — Oregon law allows for judicial review through a lawsuit. It does not mean PPS was suing the two for money. (However, a ruling in favor of the records requester does allow for the reimbursement of attorney's fees.)
Jack Orchard, a Ball Janik attorney representing Slovic via the Portland Tribune's parent company, said there is still work to be done before records are actually released.
"The judge completely agreed with the Tribune's position and completely rejected PPS' position," Orchard said. The judge is expected to issue a formal order in the next week or two and documents would have to be produced soon thereafter.
"She was very clear this is not private information that we're seeking," Sordyl said. "I'm glad that they have a clear ruling so that they won't play these games anymore."
However, Sordyl noted that if PPS wanted to, the district could appeal the judge's ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Portland Association of Teachers President Suzanne Cohen was not immediately available to comment on the ruling.
PPS spokesman Harry Esteve released the following statement Friday:
"Today's ruling provides the clarity we believed was needed when we asked the court to review this case. Now that we have the court's interpretation of ORS 343.850(8) and how it applies to paid administrative leave status, as well as other relevant statutes, we will follow the ruling and are preparing to release the records that have been requested."