On February 7, 2011 Governor Kitzhaberís
Chief of Staff Curtis Robinhold sent a
disturbing memo to all state agency
directors providing direction to the
state agencies on expressing positions
on pending state legislation.
Agency Directors Memo from Governor
The most troubling part of the memo
states: ďThere should be no
surprises to the Governorís Office on
the input agencies provide in formal
committee testimony or otherwise
regarding pending legislation. As such,
even if expressing a ďneutralĒ position
and providing factual information,
agencies must provide a heads up to the
governorís Legislative Director and
assigned Policy Advisor in advance.
Agencies must obtain authorization from
the Governorís Legislative Director or
their assigned Policy Advisor before
supporting or opposing bills, whether at
their own initiation or when asked for
input from stakeholders or legislatorsĒ.
This memo appears to require state
employees to obtain permission from
Governor Kitzhaberís office before
expressing any position or responding to
any question from a Legislator regarding
any pending legislation whether asked in
committee or anywhere else.
The memo goes on to describe the
conditions under which the public
employees may be allowed to give factual
testimony in committee or to answer
direct questions asked by legislators.
Those conditions include whether the
response is consistent with the
Governorís current budget
recommendations and legislative agenda
and whether the response will create
excessive controversy that could
distract from the Governorís higher
level agenda and message.
It is understandable that the governor
wishes to present a consistent message
to both the Legislature and the people
of Oregon. However, his apparent
requirement that all state employeesí
speech must be edited through his office
cast a chilling perspective on his
pledge to preside over an open and
Moreover, it is the responsibility of
Legislators to oversee state agency
actions and outcomes as well as to
determine the cost effectiveness of how
the taxpayersí money is being spent.
Kitzhaberís directive appears to limit
that oversight to only what the Governor
wants the legislators to hear. It also
will place state employees in the
untenable position of being told not to
respond to direct questions from
Legislators without those answers being
edited by his staff.
My office has submitted requests to
Legislative Counsel for legal opinions
regarding Governor Kitzhaberís authority
to suppress the speech of Oregon public
employees. The PDF link from the
Governor to the Agency Directors is
attached in the lower left hand corner
of this text frame box.