The audacity is stunning: Taxpayers spent $23,500 for an independent study of the Mirror Pond dam, but they can’t see the results without permission from PacifiCorp, the private company that owns the dam.
That’s because Bend Park & Recreation District Executive Director Don Horton and Mirror Pond Project Manager Jim Figurski signed a nondisclosure agreement they say gives the utility company the right to decide if the report can be released.
According to an email from PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely, the nondisclosure agreement was necessary because the company gave “information about vendors, contracts, employee salaries and other information that is typically considered commercially sensitive by any business.” They want to review the report and redact any such information before it is released. The public will never know just what was redacted and whether its removal was appropriate.
Bend City Councilors Mark Capell and Victor Chudowsky are properly critical of the situation. Both are members of the Mirror Pond committee charged with determining the pond’s future. We agree with their assertion that the public needs to see the full report so it can make a good decision, and with Capell’s position that there’s no reason for the report to contain any proprietary information.
Horton has additionally said the report is not complete, but that’s no reason for secrecy. Draft reports are public record every bit as much as final versions.
The painful, drawn-out process of resolving the future of Mirror Pond has been anything but transparent. When the latest committee was formed, it tried to hold its meetings in secret, refusing admission to a Bulletin editorial writer. Earlier, results of an online survey were presented as if they reflected the will of the community when in fact only a small segment of people responded.
PacifiCorp has financial obligations to its owners that may well be at odds with the community’s interests. It’s not a criticism of either side to acknowledge their unavoidable adversarial positions. Giving the private side veto power over what the public can know is unacceptable, no matter how good the intentions.