SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s general counsel won’t be serving on the Oregon Court of Appeals, a position Brown had appointed him to, after the state’s public records advocate accused him of unethical behavior.
Brown said Tuesday that general counsel Misha Isaak declined his appointment and that she did not push him into the decision. The move is a result of an announcement by Public Records Advocate Ginger McCall last week that Isaak had interfered with her work to make government in Oregon more transparent and tried to compromise her office’s independence.
Calls had mounted, from politicians and newspaper editorials, for Brown to rescind her appointment of Isaak.
Brown said Isaak told her that the past week has been “excruciatingly painful.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Governor Kate Brown said:
“There is a need for resolution on the separate but related issues of the Public Records Advocate’s resignation and my recent selection of the Governor’s General Counsel for the Court of Appeals vacancy.
“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. I see now that the structure of the Advocate position, which I supported, was flawed from the beginning. Given their policy roles, the Advocate and the Public Records Advisory Council could not be truly independent as long as they were overseen by the Governor’s office, or any other elected official for that matter. Under this structure, any meaningful supervision had the potential to be seen as politically-motivated meddling, even if it was not intended that way.
“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. 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. I proposed the concept of a Public Records Advocate in 2017, and I am a strong believer in the principles behind its creation.
“This is a new position, and the Legislature and my office have clearly struggled with how to implement it within the current system of state government. In view of this experience, I think it is safe to say we can do much better, and the people of Oregon deserve to know that we take their trust seriously.
“In demonstration of my commitment to public transparency, I look forward to supporting the changes the Public Records Advisory Council proposes to improve the independence of the office of the Public Records Advocate, including efforts to ensure the position is not directly overseen by any elected official, or in any way overseen by the Executive branch but by the Council itself.
“This morning I received Misha Isaak’s letter declining his appointment to the Oregon Court of Appeals. 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.
“With respect to questions raised about the appointment of judges, I am working on developing a policy to standardize our process. 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.”