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We want the full story on the Greisen investigation

Last week, we published findings related to an investigation into the discovery of cash and bank receipts found in a locked drawer in former Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen’s office as he was on paid administrative leave (see “Chief had ‘slush fund,’ kept charity money,’ Aug. 8).

The findings, we should point out, were provided following our submission of a second request for records. But it’s not just the findings — the last four pages of what appears to be a 63-page report, though it could be longer — that pique our interest, and that should interest our readers and the general public.

We want the full report, which we believe could enlighten the public about the procedure for the launch of the investigation, the involvement of city officials —elected and appointed, former and current — in the investigation, and how donations from the city’s Bicycle Helmet Fund seemed to sidestep the city’s standard financial protocols to end up in the so-called “Police Reserves” account, which investigators deemed a “slush fund.”

We believe there are fundamental questions about how the city had been operating, including its responsibility for overseeing taxpayer and fundraised dollars for nonprofit aid organizations, that could be addressed in the report.

Our first request for the investigative findings prompted a response from the city of Scappoose that it would cost the Spotlight an estimated $550 to look at the report, and that a $200 deposit would be required before it would process our request.

It is our position the exorbitant cost to just review the document is a backdoor denial.

According to the city’s response, “It has been determined some of the report is exempted by law from disclosure. In order to release the report those items that are determined to be exempt must be removed from the report.”

In the four pages of findings the city released last week, names — only names, presumably of city and police officials — were redacted. There was no explanation for why the names were removed.

Oregon public records law, which is captured in Oregon Revised Statutes 192 and all of its subsections, allows for records that are conditionally exempt from disclosure.

Unfortunately, the list of exemptions specified in Oregon law is extensive, and there is little recourse the public — including newspaper reporters and editors — has to overturn such denials. It’s an argument attorneys ultimately need to make in a court of law, a costly solution that too often guts the public’s right to information about how government agencies operate. At its heart, Oregon’s public record law is disclosure law, but rarely have we seen that to be the case when controversial matters are at hand. This is no exception, and our instinct tells us the “exemptions” in the investigative record are an effort by Scappoose officials to avoid further embarrassment.

We have requested a waiver of the public records fee of $550 with the stated purpose we intend to disseminate the record to the public. The waiver request was denied, and we have since filed a petition to Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison to review the fee waiver denial and, hopefully, render an opinion that the investigative report should be fully disclosed to the public, as is our position.

Indeed, we expect the investigative document to provide us and the public with context to the findings that concluded Greisen operated a slush fund and had spending practices that did not conform to the city’s policies. How long had this been occurring? Where were Greisen’s supervisor and the city councilors as this was taking place over the last decade? Was Greisen only the victim of a system that for too long turned a blind eye to such practices?

Possibly.

But without a full accounting from the city, including a release of all of the relevant records necessary to inform a public that has legitimate reason to be suspicious of the intentions of Scappoose city and police officials, we will never know.