SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown "deeply regrets" the controversy created by the sudden resignation of Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall this month, Brown said in a statement released on Tuesday. McCall announced her resignation at the beginning of last week, citing interference from Gov. Brown's staff.
“First, let me say that while there has been misunderstanding in and around both processes, I deeply regret that controversies have been created and acknowledge that I am ultimately accountable," Brown said. "I see now that the structure of the Advocate position, which I supported, was flawed from the beginning."
Today the Public Records Advisory Council will discuss the reasons for my resignation & potential ideas for independence. There are in-person and telephone call-in options for this meeting, or send written statement to firstname.lastname@example.org. https://t.co/UvwBouXU6S #opengov— Ginger McCall (@OregonPRA) September 13, 2019
Brown did champion the creation of the new Public Records Advocate position, which McCall accepted in January of 2018 after it was approved by lawmakers. The position was intended to create greater government transparency and accountability among Oregon's state agencies and elected officials.
Ostensibly, the position reported to the Governor's office. However, McCall later said she'd been led to understand that she would have greater independence and autonomy.
In her resignation letter to Governor Brown, McCall described feeling pressured by the Governor's staff — particularly Misha Isaak, the General Counsel — to let them oversee her work, without letting others know that this oversight was occurring.
“Through my years in leadership positions, I’ve come to realize that in politics, a discussion of fault often knows no boundaries until someone takes responsibility for making sure the right thing happens," Brown said. "I am taking that responsibility. As Governor, I want to restore focus on what matters most, which is openness in government."
“I’ve met personally with Ginger McCall to express my regret at her resignation, and to hear her thoughts on how to reinforce the strength of the public records advocate position and better serve the transparency process," Brown continued. "I proposed the concept of a Public Records Advocate in 2017, and I am a strong believer in the principles behind its creation."
Governor Brown said that she and lawmakers could "do much better" and would look into making changes to the position in order to grant the next Advocate greater independence.
Prior to McCall's resignation, Brown had tapped Isaak for a seat on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Following McCall's revelations, top Republican lawmakers, journalists, and others had called for Brown to rescind his appointment.
— OR House Republicans (@OregonHouseGOP) September 12, 2019
“This morning I received Misha Isaak’s letter declining his appointment to the Oregon Court of Appeals," Brown said on Tuesday. "I have come to know Misha for his personal and professional integrity, and he has only reinforced that in making this decision. He is an excellent lawyer and a valued member of my team."
Brown also promised to develop a standardization process for the appointment of future judges:
"In the future, the Governor’s office will announce any vacancies on the Oregon bench publicly and will clearly communicate the process we will follow in reviewing candidates for any judicial positions. I am very proud of my record of building a judiciary that reflects the diversity of the people of Oregon, with the highest level of character and legal excellence.”