State confidentiality deals banned under bill
SALEM - The Oregon State Senate passed a bill on Friday, banning any government entity, officer, employee or agent from entering into a settlement of a lawsuit that has a confidentiality clause.
The effect of such confidentiality agreements, said Senator Vicki Walker, is to prevent the Legislature from getting critical information about illegal or inappropriate state agency action.
"Itís time we gave our government back to the people," said Walker (D-Eugene), the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 324. "Itís time to put an end to the secrets."
"When one victim and her attorney indicated they were going to hold a press conference to expose the pattern of abuse at the Oregon State Hospital in the early 1990s, the state attorney generalís office authorized an additional $50,000 to buy their silence," Walker said. "This was hush money - a confidentiality agreement designed to keep the Legislature in the dark at a time when several other children at OSH also were being abused."
In an expose on past sexual abuse of children at OSH published by The Oregonian, an Assistant Attorney General is quoted saying, "we made it clear we were buying confidentiality from the plaintiff. I donít know how to put a dollar sign on the political aspect. Whatís somebody going to say in the next legislative session about [OSH superintendent] Dr. Mazur-Hart and how he runs his ship out there?"
Senator Walker, after reading the news story, immediately contacted Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem/Woodburn/Gervais) and Senator Avel Gordly (D-Portland), both of whom are strong advocates for the rights of the mentally ill and reforming OSH. Walker also credited Oregonian reporter Michelle Roberts with exposing the abuse and the confidentiality deals.
Next, the bill moves to the Oregon House of Representatives.
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