Port of Portland violates Oregon Public Records Act by demanding $200,000 prepayment for ‘first phase’ of records search, delaying for more than a year, says union lawsuit

PORTLAND, OR (August 7, 2013) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has filed a lawsuit against the Port of Portland, alleging numerous ongoing violations of the Oregon Public Records Act (“OPRA”).

“Oregonians have a right to know how whether the Port of Portland is irresponsibly managing the biggest public port in our state,” said Leal Sundet, ILWU Coast Committeeman and member of ILWU Local 8 in Portland. “The Port’s lack of transparency is inexcusable, especially at a time when its deals with overseas companies have resulted in attacks on American working conditions and created unrest among its longtime labor force.”

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County circuit court on July 25, outlines public records requests submitted by the union in June, September and December of 2012. The Port responded by sending the union an “arbitrary and excessive estimate of approximately $200,000, just to identify and locate the requested records. … The $200,000 quote covered only what POP labeled as ‘first phase’ costs and did not include ‘second phase’ costs of attorney and paralegal fees to review and segregate records between exempt and non-exempt information before production of any documents.  POP asserted it could not provide an estimate of such ‘second phase’ fees ‘other than to say that it could be a substantial amount.’”

POP demanded that ILWU make the $200,000 payment up-front. Even then, the advanced payment would not necessarily result in production of any requested records.  The lawsuit says that “POP’s treatment of ILWU’s public records requests … were motivated by discrimination, retaliation, and hostility against ILWU in bad faith because of ILWU’s participation in ongoing litigation involving POP, rather than objective considerations that comport with POP’s disclosure obligations under the Oregon Public Records Act.”

The union is seeking, among other remedies, that the court issue an order declaring POP’s handling of ILWU’s public records requests to be dilatory, in bad faith, and in violation of the Oregon Public Records Act; issue an order compelling POP to waive or substantially reduce its fees; and issue an order compelling POP to produce to ILWU the non-exempt records requested by ILWU in June, September, and December 2012.

The ILWU has represented workers in West Coast ports since 1934. Two of the Port of Portland’s tenants, Japan-based Marubeni-Columbia Grain and Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services, Inc., have been involved in labor disputes with the ILWU over the past two years.

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