A judge has ordered Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer to pay $28,000 in attorney fees to The Oregonian newspaper after it sued him over public records.
Grant County Circuit Court Judge William D. Cramer Jr. said in a June 28 opinion letter both parties partially prevailed in the lawsuit filed by The Oregonian seeking disclosure of certain public records from Palmer. The Oregonian requested $78,000 in attorney fees in November 2016 after the case had been dismissed because Palmer produced the requested records after the suit had been filed.
“I find that Sheriff Palmer had responded timely to some parts of the many requests, some prior to the lawsuit,” Cramer said in the opinion. “... However, I find that the lawsuit was necessary to generate an accurate response as to all the requests in the complaint and the complete production of documents.”
An attorney for The Oregonian said in court documents the newspaper began requesting public records from Palmer and the sheriff’s office in February 2016, but Palmer did not provide all the documents requested, including email, phone and other records. The attorney said Palmer displayed a “complete lack of cooperation,” and the lawsuit was necessary to compel the disclosure of the public records.
Palmer said in a Jan. 13 declaration the sheriff’s office had been short-staffed for a variety of reasons, and he was unable to provide immediate access to the records. Palmer’s attorney argued The Oregonian submitted many requests for records, which were confusing. The attorney said ensuring the records were not exempt from disclosure and that certain information was redacted required time. He said Palmer was complying with the requests.
Cramer agreed, in part, with both parties.
“Plaintiff made numerous requests, which given their breadth, were confusing and voluminous. Given the cost and effort to respond, it was reasonable for defendant to seek clarification,” Cramer said in the opinion. “... But while all this is occurring, Sheriff Palmer did not give all the requests sufficient priority. I find he was frustrated and failed to choose to address all the requests in a timely manner as required.”
Palmer declined to comment for this story.