Today, the City of Bend, the Central Oregon Peacekeepers, and a member of the Peacekeepers, Michael Satcher, filed a motion in the Deschutes County Circuit Court agreeing to dismiss all claims in an ongoing lawsuit. As part of the dismissal, the City of Bend has agreed to pay the Peacekeepers’ and Satcher’s attorney fees and costs. The motion, if accepted by the court, would bring an end to the City’s attempt to recover some $3,600 from Satcher for the purported cost of fulfilling his public records request on behalf of the Peacekeepers.
The Peacekeepers’ original request sought information about the Bend Police Department’s response to 2020 racial justice protests in the city. After receiving the City’s fee estimate, Satcher appealed to the Deschutes County District Attorney, who determined that the requested records were important to the public’s interest and ordered the City to waive all fees for producing them to Satcher and the Peacekeepers. While the City produced the records following the DA’s decision, it filed a lawsuit against Satcher to recover the fees.
ACLU of Oregon, with cooperating attorneys Rian Peck and Alan Kessler, stepped in to defend Satcher from the suit. The Peacekeepers also joined the lawsuit and filed a counterclaim against the City seeking an order declaring the City’s fee estimate to be excessive and the City’s denial of the requested fee waiver unreasonable.
The Central Oregon Peacekeepers:
"We would like to thank our lawyers Rian and Alan, and the ACLU of Oregon for believing in us and for their hard work on this case. They fought for us as independent journalists, and as everyday citizens concerned about government transparency. This is a victory for free speech and for accountability of public officials.
The City fought hard to stop our record request. First with stalling tactics, then with fees. When both of those tactics failed, they took us to court to try and intimidate us. But we got the records and we learned a lot. We learned that Bend PD potentially spent more resources looking for the City Attorney's stolen bicycle than they did investigating a BIPOC individual getting beaten nearly to death. We learned that the Chief of Police lied about ordering the SWAT team to respond to a peaceful protest. We learned that the same Chief assigned a Bend Police officer to spend her work hours monitoring local activists. We learned that the City of Bend ran criminal background checks on people simply for attending protest events.
The City of Bend was explicit in saying they took us to court to discourage requests like this in the future. They spent an enormous amount of money trying to bully us into giving up. We are thrilled that they were not allowed to prevail. In the future, we hope the City decides to spend taxpayer dollars helping people, instead of spending to silence them."
Rian Peck of Visible Law and Vice Chair of the ACLU of Oregon Lawyers Committee:
“Congratulations to the Central Oregon Peacekeepers for their hard-earned success in resolving this dispute with the City of Bend. Oregon’s Public Records Act guarantees that all people have the right to access public records in Oregon, but public bodies often thwart that guarantee by charging arbitrary and excessive fees for producing the records, and then by playing favoritism when deciding whether a requester is entitled to have those arbitrary and excessive fees waived (or not). The Peacekeepers’ willingness to advocate for equitable access to public records is an important precedent that will help us keep whittling away at public bodies’ efforts to keep public records secret.”
About The Central Oregon Peacekeepers:
The Peacekeepers are dedicated to the safety of the Central Oregon activist community. We organize safety volunteers, identify violent counter-protesters, and research public figures. If you believe in justice, equity, and inclusion, we're here for you.
About The ACLU of Oregon:
The ACLU of Oregon is an affiliate of the national ACLU which has affiliates in 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The ACLU of Oregon is a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization with more than 28,000 members statewide. The organization works in the courts, in the state legislature and local governments, and in communities to defend and advance our civil liberties and civil rights under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions and the laws of the United States and Oregon.
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