Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, may have serious problems with the way it treats female and older employees. The state is kicking off an investigation to learn if there is truth to anonymous allegations sent to Gov. Kate Brown.
Oregonians need to know. But the way the state has structured the investigation could be a sign it won’t be fully transparent about what it finds.
A group of anonymous employees sent a letter to Brown earlier this month, urging her to begin an investigation, according to an article in The Oregonian. The letter alleges a hostile work environment, discriminatory treatment of older and female employees, violations of state procurement rules, excessive expenditures on consultants and more. It does not provide details of any specific examples.
Investigations can be challenging and sensitive. The state has contracted with the Portland office of Perkins Coie to conduct it — supervised by the state’s Department of Justice.
It’s the way the contract is structured that could mean little or no information will be released to the public. The contract says Perkins Coie is to conduct “an attorney-client privileged investigation.” Government agencies love those because it can mean the findings of the investigation can be exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law.
The head of the Justice Department — Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum — and Gov. Brown have made strong verbal commitments to transparency. Will they be open about another possibly embarrassing mess for Brown’s administration? Or is their commitment to transparency hollow?
Oregonians deserve access to the investigative file to ensure their government and the investigation meet high standards.