THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE: More than 50 people donated to "Dollars for Disclosure." on Thursday, a solid vote for open and honest government in Malheur County.
Malheur County, we need your help.
The Malheur County Economic Development Department and its director, Greg Smith, still want $875 for public documents.
The Malheur Enterprise is seeking government documents to show what Smith and his private company have done for the community. As we explained not long ago, Gregory Smith & Company is paid $9,000 a month to run the county department. (See original report here.)
The Enterprise asked for records that would document what the company has done on 12 specific tasks in its contract – tasks that have hardly changed since 2013.
The county typically doesn’t charge the press for records about public business.
That’s been true of Smith’s team with a series of records requests about the Treasure Valley Reload Center.
By law, the county doesn’t have to charge for records. It can waive those costs when it serves the public interest.
But this time, the county wants money. Smith doesn’t see any public benefit to providing the documents.
“It is not clear that the information you request will directly impact, affect or serve an identified interest of the general public or advance the welfare and well-being of the general public,” Smith wrote.
The Enterprise asked Smith to reconsider his decision. He stood firm on the fee, telling others that he would have to close his office for two days to collect the documents.
We offered Smith other options.
We invited him to suggest how we could reduce the scale of our requests but still get useful information.
He didn’t respond.
We offered Smith a chance to sit down for an interview, joined by Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce, instead of producing records. We thought he could explain task by task what his company did in the past year faster than relying on documents.
He didn’t respond.
At this point, we have no choice but to pay the estimated $875.
That’s a stiff fee for a small newsroom, so we’re reviving our “Dollars for Disclosure” campaign.
When we raised this issue earlier, more than 60 of you reached out. You urged us to pursue the documents – that you wanted to know what Gregory Smith & Company has accomplished. You offered to help cover the fee.
Here’s your chance to ensure no government agency escapes accountability to the people that count the most – taxpayers. Your donation not only helps pay the bill but shows county officials that you ARE interested in the truth about government performance.
You can donate directly online HERE or you can mail your contribution to Malheur Enterprise (PO Box 310 Vale OR 97918) and note that it is for “Dollars for Disclosure.” And let us know if your name should go on the public Honor Roll of Citizen Donors we'll share.
Thanks for helping us keep an eye on county government – and your money.
•Les Zaitz, Editor and Publisher