The people are bosses of public employees

Oregon's state attorney general doesn't see it that way. She's made an unfortunate decision that threatens good government.


All public employees -- from the president and governors to part-time clerks -- work for the people.

Sure, most have supervisors, but the bosses are ultimately the folks who pay their salaries-- the taxpayers.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum seems to have forgotten this. This week she denied a request from The Oregonian newspaper to release the names and personnel records of the Department of Revenue workers whose errors led to the biggest tax fraud in state history.

If a private business screw up occurred does anyone believe the owner should not be able to get details -- including who is involved?

The public is the "owner" of government.

In the Oregon fraud, a Salem woman claimed $3.5 million in income and received a bogus $2.1 million refund from the state on a Visa debit card. She was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison.

No state workers lost their jobs, but the Department of Revenue disciplined four employees last month after an internal investigation.

Officials, however, continue to refuse to name the two managers and two staff members involved.

Department officials claim the public doesn't need to know their names.

We appreciate the loyalty and, perhaps, compassion exhibited from Revenue officials for the workers.

But, like the attorney general, they miss the larger point. Most of what goes on in government, good or bad, is the people's business.

We wouldn't, for example, expect information about an ongoing investigation to be made public, but once it has been concluded -- as this has -- it's public information.

Releasing all of the information about the tax-fraud mess - including the names of those involved - will provide a clear picture of what went wrong. That information could be used to make sure this doesn't happen again.

It can also be used by the Oregonian and others to dig deeper. Perhaps the Department of Revenue investigation wasn't accurate or complete. Maybe the four who were disciplined were not at the root of the problem and those higher up in the department are using them as scapegoats.

Then again, maybe the Department of Revenue handled the issue properly.

Let's find out by making all of the information public.

This must apply to every department in state government.

The attorney general has established a lousy precedent that threatens good government in Oregon.


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