orr JUDGE ORDERS SAIF TO ANSWER QUESTIONS, TURN OVER RECORDS 07/03/2004 ======================================================================
Copyright (c) 2004, The Oregonian Publishing Company
Saturday, July 3, 2004
SECTION: LOCAL STORIES
PAGE: D03 LENGTH: 56 lines
HEADLINE: JUDGE ORDERS SAIF TO ANSWER QUESTIONS, TURN OVER RECORDS
BYLINE: JANIE HAR - The Oregonian
Summary: The state-owned workers' compensation insurer faces a separate hearing for not producing public records
Saif Corp. lost twice Friday when a Marion County judge ordered the state-owned workers' compensation insurer to answer opponents' questions and denied the agency's request to keep certain records confidential.
Both orders are in advance of a hearing next month to determine whether Saif should be held in contempt for not producing records despite an appellate court decision last year ordering many of the agency's business records to be made public.
The plaintiff is a nonprofit group financed mostly by Saif rival Liberty Northwest and represented by attorney John DiLorenzo.
Last month, DiLorenzo produced an affidavit by a former Saif employee who claimed top agency officials told him to delete public documents, prompting the contempt hearing.
On Friday, Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb said Saif officials must answer DiLorenzo's detailed questions about how the agency searched for documents to satisfy his public records requests and a subpoena from the state ethics commission.
DiLorenzo contends Saif officials failed to hand over documents that were produced for the ethics commission, and he wants to know why.
Michael Mueller, Saif's top attorney, said the possibility that Saif used different methods to search for records has little bearing on the issue of whether the agency "willfully" hid public documents.
"The harm in it is that it allows Mr. DiLorenzo to continue to push this discovery process far outside of the boundaries of what this hearing is really about," he said.
Lipscomb also ruled that the internal business records of Gard & Gerber, a private company that manages public relations for Saif, must be turned over to DiLorenzo.
A Saif attorneyargued that the documents -- which include calendars, memos and notes -- are the property of a private third party and are not shared with Saif officials. DiLorenzo contended that communications among Gard & Gerber employees may "indicate what documents were received from Saif or should have gone to Saif."
"I find it patently unreasonable for Saif to take the position (that) documents that are parked off campus are not subject to public inspection when they involve" a public agency, DiLorenzo said.
Saif officials submitted affidavits to Lipscomb this week rebutting the accusation by Mark Cohen, a former public affairs employee, that top agency officials had ordered him to erase records to avoid making them public.
The officials also submitted a manager's notes contending that Cohen's job performance was poor and prompted them to ask him to resign in March.