With the next City Council decision on the downtown exclusion zone — which allows banning people from the downtown core prior to conviction of a crime — a year away, civil liberties activists already seeking the data they need to fight the zone. But on Oct. 17, Eugene Police Department records manager Joan Quaempts denied the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) request for a public records fee waiver for documents related to past exclusions, quoting a $2,284 fee for the records. EW was a party in the request.
Quaempts wrote in the decision that the fee waiver request was significantly different from an earlier request, when EPD granted a $22 waiver. “Whether the City Council should vote to extend the downtown exclusion zone was a matter of significant public interest; on Oct. 8 the City Council voted on the issue.”
Occupy liaison Jean Stacey says the fact that the next vote is a year off doesn’t make the data less of a public interest. “The public interest has not died, and it will not die until the [exclusion] zone has been eliminated. There is still a very deep public interest.”
In addition, Quaempts wrote, “Prior to releasing the responsive records to you, the city must review all of the documents for confidential and exempt information and make any necessary redactions.” Redacting Social Security reports and drivers licenses is necessary to comply with federal and state law. Quaempts also cited the need to redact confidential or exempt information in criminal background checks and number of contacts with the police.
Despite the need for redactions, Lauren Regan of the CLDC argues that because the records are of vital importance to the public, the fee is an unreasonable barrier to them. “It is unfortunate the city and EPD have attempted to stall and preclude the public from reviewing the facts and data regarding the highly controversial exclusion zone,” Regan writes in an email to EW. “One is left wondering what they are trying to hide. Clearly these community groups have a right to inspect and review this public information, and charging excessive fees for public records with the hope of preventing public access to that information is unconscionable. We will appeal this decision with the goal of protecting the community’s right to access public records.”
Mayor Kitty Piercy says that she is awaiting an explanation of the situation from city attorney Glenn Klein.