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Portland Public Schools loses records secrecy lawsuit

May 13, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A judge in Oregon says Portland Public Schools must release records that disclose the both the name and duration of all employees on paid administrative leave.

Multnomah County District Judge Judith Matarazzo on Friday sided with reporter Beth Slovic and parent Kim Sordyl in the public records case, The Oregonian reported.

The case arose after Slovic and Sordyl asked Portland Public Schools for the records in early 2017, but district officials refused. The women then asked the Multnomah County district attorney to order the school officials to turn over the records, which the district attorney did.

That’s when Portland Public Schools officials sued the pair. The officials said they were only seeking clarity from the courts on the matter, not trying to be vindictive.

Slovic, who was first at Willamette Week and then at The Portland Tribune, exposed paid administrative leaves for educators that stretched longer than two years. She declined to comment on the ruling.

Sordyl said disclosure of the records is important because paid administrative leave is intended to be a short-term paid exile while allegations against an employee are checked. During paid administrative leave, districts typically pay both the employee on leave and a second person to do the employee’s work while that person is away.

Sordyl said release of the records will benefit the public by improving transparency.

“It will also prompt the district to start handling their HR issues in a timely manner instead of paying two people to do one job,” she said.

The school district is already preparing the records for release, spokesman Harry Esteve said.

Julia Brim Edwards, the school board chair who took office last July, said via email, “This lawsuit was yet another issue left over from the previous district administration. The new board and district leadership are committed to greater transparency and disclosure. ... This ruling provides not only a resolution for the reporter and the citizen requesting the documents, but also provides clear direction for the district.”

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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