Ginny Burdick Takes Cover Behind Her Office in Gun Battle

March 16, 2013


Public Records Ginny BurdickState Senator Ginny Burdick, who claimed she cancelled a March 4th citizen’s town hall meeting because of threats against her by “gun extremists,” is now stonewalling efforts to see proof of those threats. Burdick has alleged threats against her on local and national television.

As I reported here, on March 8th, I filed a public records request with Senator Burdick’s office to receive,

“…all reports by the Senator and her staff to law enforcement and recordings, written communications, including texts, facebook messages, emails and tweets, and visual proof of threats she received prompting her to cancel her Town Hall meeting at Portland State University on March 4, 2013.”

I concluded my request by stating,

Ms. Burdick has made very serious allegations against people she has described recently in interviews and on her own facebook page as gun nuts and wackos. It’s necessary for her to substantiate her claims of threats and I look forward to reporting on the veracity of those claims.

As I reported here, Burdick provided KATU news with emails she claimed were threatening but which did not appear to rise to the level of actual threats. Were they threats there would have been more prominent news coverage and criminal charges forthcoming. Here’s an example she gave to the TV station.
But instead of satisfying the request for documents to prove these new allegations, something that should have been easy for her staff to do, she lateraled my request to the Legislative Counsel Dexter A. Johnson who sent me this response which read in part,
The Legislative Assembly and members and staff of the Legislative Assembly are not subject to the public records law during periods in which the Legislative Assembly is in session.  ORS 192.410 (5).  The Legislative Assembly is currently in session and therefore will not be providing the materials you requested.
In short, Burdick isn’t required to honor requests for documents until the session is over. I asked attorney and Blog member Bruce McCain who confirmed Burdick can’t be compelled to turn over documents until the legislature is over and added, 

But even if Burdick defamed an individual (a class of unidentified persons doesn’t qualify) she could not be served with civil process while the legislature is in session. But merely describing her political opponents as crazy, nuts, or whackos doesn’t rise to actionable defamation of an individual.

And if Burdick accuses someone of “threatening” her which is a criminal offense? Should she have to prove her allegation? McCain continues,

As far as records of a member of the Legislative Assembly that may relate to criminal activity, that is an entirely different issue. Public records law wouldn’t even apply because law enforcement (not the general public) could get to those records through warrants and subpoenas. But that still doesn’t mean a member of the general public is entitled to see exempt public records just because the records may be related to criminal activity.  

If she chose to, Burdick could turn over any documents to prove her allegations of ‘threats’ against her but has not. Why not?

Here are some possibilities: 

  1. She’s planning to wait till after the session is over.
  2. She can play victim  (as she did recently on MSNBC) and cast her political opponents as criminals. 
  3. The State Police are investigating.
  4. She has no proof.

If there’s no crime, then Ginny Burdick is both a liar and a coward. One who uses the imprimatur of authority to politically marginalize constituents who have an honest difference of opinion with the State Senator on civil rights. And a coward who hides behind her office now just as she hid from her constituents on March 4th.