Cover Oregon is making its legislative oversight committee meetings open to the public 22 months after it’s been holding them behind closed doors.
The announcement came over the weekend in an email list of all of Cover Oregon’s upcoming public meetings. Cover Oregon isn’t explaining why it changed its mind about the meetings.
KATU News first reported, and questioned last week, whether holding those meetings is against the state’s “Sunshine Laws” or public meetings laws.
Attorney Duane Bosworth said, “It is plain Oregon law that when you recommend and advise to another public body you are what’s called a ‘governing body’ and you are subject to public meetings laws."
Since Friday, KATU reporter Hillary Lake has been digging into who has oversight over the legislative oversight committee for Cover Oregon. Who serves in that role is unclear to Cover Oregon, and to some legislators, including two lawmakers who serve on the committee.
On Monday, a Cover Oregon spokeswoman, Ariane Holm, refused to answer KATU’s questions in person about who made the decision to suddenly make the next legislative oversight committee meeting public. She did answer questions by email.
Holm wrote to Lake that she didn’t have any more information about the legislative oversight committee meeting.
Last week Holm said in an email, when asked about the secret meetings: "To our understanding, Cover Oregon doesn't have authority over the structure or membership."
Now, not only is Cover Oregon not answering questions about why its legislative oversight committee meetings are suddenly public, neither is Senate leadership or the governor's office. A spokesman for Senate President Peter Courtney hasn’t responded to two emails. A spokeswoman for Gov. John Kitzhaber told KATU News she won’t be able to get answers to KATU until Tuesday.
The only hint of accountability comes from the spokesman for the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. He told KATU they're looking into whether Cover Oregon violated the states' "Sunshine Law" every time the meetings weren't made public in the past.
Ultimately, the state counts on the public to help it enforce the public meetings laws. The only way to do that is to file a lawsuit in circuit court.
Had these meetings been open to the public all along, the public—and the media—would have had additional opportunities to serve as watchdogs during the development of the state’s health insurance exchange website.
Tuesday's legislative oversight committee meeting starts at 10 a.m. It's a conference call. Click here to find out how to participate and to read the agenda.
Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website:
- Cover Oregon: Apply for insurance in April and avoid federal penalty
- Secret Cover Oregon oversight meetings may violate public meetings law
- Cover Oregon announces $1 million ad blitz to raise awareness
- Months later, Gresham woman still wondering if she has health insurance
- Portland tech company to governor: We can fix Cover Oregon's website
- State granted one-month extensioin for Cover Oregon enrollment
- First Data report: Cover Oregon didn't have federally required backup plan
- Watch: Your Voice Your Future Town Hall: Cover Oregon
- Cover Oregon confessions: Are they playing games with your health?
- New report answers many Cover Oregon questions - often for second time
- Cover Oregon directory Goldberg resigns; Governor releases investigation findings
- Cover Oregon: Still pushing for deadline extension
- Oregon tied for last in nation for young-adult health-insurance sign-ups
- Cover Oregon: Apply now if you want health insurance this year
- Federal government announces Cover Oregon investigation
- Former Cover Oregon director says 'all of us' share blame for failures
- Top Cover Oregon official refuses to discuss Lawson resignation
- Official: Oracle not allowing Cover Oregon probe access to 6 employees
- Trouble with Cover Oregon? You may still get federal tax credits
- Cover Oregon website developer pulls 100 worker off project
- Ex-Cover Oregon website chief: 'I stuck to the talking points ... they were not accurate'
- High-level IT consultant on Cover Oregon: 'They didn't know what they were doing'
- New Cover Oregon allegations: 'If it's true, someone's going to prison.'
- Paging Dr. Kitzhaber: What did the governor know about Cover Oregon collapse?
- State rep., U.S. Senate candidate calls for the end of Cover Oregon
- Cover Oregon head: State might scrap all or part of failing website
- State lawmakers to grill Cover Oregon chief
- Family struggles to sign up for insurance through Cover Oregon
- First legal complaint filed over health enrollment mistakes
- Democratic state lawmaker believes Cover Oregon can be saved
- Contractor plans to examine why Cover Oregon failed
- 'We look like fools:' A history of Cover Oregon's failure
- State rep: Ditch Cover Oregon in favor of federal exchange
- Video: Exclusive Interview: Gov. John Kitzhaber - Cover Oregon 1/9/2014
- Gov. denies prior knowledge of Cover Oregon failure, exits exclusive KATU interview
- Kitzhaber outlines Cover Oregon's next steps: 'I can't give you a date'
- Kitzhaber: Firm will review Cover Oregon failures
- Cover Oregon applications left in limbo?
- Man with cancer waiting on Cover Oregon, gets insured
- Man with cancer still waiting on Cover Oregon
- New calls for Cover Oregon to take responsibility for project failures
- Rocky King, director of troubled Cover Oregon, resigns
- Salem man says Cover Oregon error left him in health care limbo
- Some question if they'll be covered by Cover Oregon in the new year
- What doomed Cover Oregon? 'Mismanagement,' say former employees
- After resigning, Lawson not talking about Cover Oregon website failures
- Ore. health official in charge of building Cover Oregon website resigns
- Fewer enrollments challenge Oregon exchange budget
- Executive director of Cover Oregon taking medical leave
- Cover Oregon considers new solutions
- Kitzhaber calls for independent review of Cover Oregon
- New emails show Cover Oregon unraveling in days before launch
- Emails: Cover Oregon executive knew about website problems in May
- Cover Oregon complicated by state's grand vision