Editorial: Cover Oregon fails again on secrecy

Cover Oregon has a reputation for two of the worst things possible in government: failure and secrecy. So maybe nobody should be surprised that it has failed at secrecy, again.

Cover Oregon declined this week to release the identities of its finalists for its new director.

Executive searches tend to be a prickly subject for public entities. They tend to not want to disclose who they are interviewing. The argument is that it can reduce the number of people who apply or make their current jobs unpleasant.

We don’t doubt that can be true. But in the final stages, when a public entity has narrowed the list of finalists, the public should be able to know who they are. Executive directors of public agencies, whether they are going to be leading a college, a school district or running Cover Oregon, play very important roles. The public is entitled to know who is being considered so it can decide if the search has brought in the right caliber of candidates, do some vetting of their own and ensure that the final selection makes sense.

Cover Oregon met with our editorial board before the website failure and stressed its commitment to openness. It’s proven to be another thing Cover Oregon never got right.

The most outrageous example was perhaps that it kept its board meetings with the legislative oversight committee secret. And in those secret meetings it kept secrets from lawmakers about just how bad things were getting.

The fundamental premise of Oregon’s open records and meetings laws are that the public is to be provided with information. It’s not secrecy with occasional nods to the appearance of openness.