Open Oregon, concerned about the report of a secret meeting by the Oregon Health Authority’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, today sent a letter to OHA Director Patrick Allen. The board urges the health authority to release any recordings of this meeting and to ensure that all future meetings are conducted in the open spirit of Oregon’s public meetings laws.
Read the complete letter below:
Re: Feb. 2 closed meeting of the Oregon Health Authority’s Vaccine Advisory Committee
Dear Director Patrick Allen:
This letter is on behalf of Open Oregon: A Freedom of Information Coalition. Open Oregon, a nonprofit dedicated to educating Oregonians about their rights to government information, objects strongly to the Feb. 2, 2021, secret meeting of the Oregon Health Authority’s Vaccine Advisory Committee.
The committee was established to “advise OHA on vaccine sequencing plans for Phases 1b, 1c and 2, with the goal of ensuring that communities most impacted by COVID-19 are included.”
The vaccine advisory committee appears to be subject to Oregon’s open meetings law: A body that has authority to make recommendations to a public body on policy or administration is a governing body. ORS 192.630.
While OHA might argue the body did not have a quorum deliberating toward a decision, nevertheless the views expressed by the committee members are vitally important to Oregonians trying to navigate and understand the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Closing the meeting to the public certainly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the open meetings law. It also goes against Oregon’s strong and enduring tradition of government transparency.
If OHA argues no deliberations or decisions occurred, the agency’s position requires the public to simply trust that is indeed what happened.
We ask in the spirit of transparency — given that the lives of Oregonians are literally at stake — that OHA release any recording, notes or record of the Feb. 2, 2021, meeting.
If no recording exists in OHA custody, we respectfully ask that OHA inquire of the members of the committee if they have such a recording to provide for release.
We look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to acting board president Shasta Kearns Moore at openoregondotcom-at-gmail.com if you have any questions or concerns.
Shasta Kearns Moore
Vice President and Acting President, Open Oregon
A National Freedom of Information Coalition chapter
cc: Open Oregon Board
Therese Bottomly, Secretary/Treasurer
Mary Beth Herkert