Story by NATALIE WHEELER of the East Oregonian
Horse Eating “United Horsemen” Search for Feared Pro-Horse Boogeyman
Suspicious that the city received support from the Humane Society and other animal rights groups, Dave Duquette of United Horsemen requested the records and all documents pertaining to himself and horse slaughter, including any emails on the subject.
The city recommended to narrow the requested city email accounts from 155 to 11 in order to save time, arguing the search would take 775 hours if all city employee accounts were inspected. Those 11 email accounts include the mayor, city council, city manager, assistant city manager and city planner.
According to assistant to the city manager Mark Morgan the amount of files, even from only the 11 email accounts, are “incalculable.” He said the documents will take upwards of 50 hours to search out. Because of the workload, the city originally asked for $651 for the labor and materials needed to complete the request.
After Duquette filed a complaint with the Umatilla County district attorney regarding the cost of obtaining records, the city decided to waive the fee and produce the files for free.
According to city attorney Gary Luisi, the city decided to back down on the fee because it does not yet have a written policy regarding extensive public records requests.
“It’s something that I would recommend the city adopts a formal policy on,” Luisi said. “When there is a request of this breadth and depth, there needs to be reasonable payment for time.”
Duquette said the fee was unreasonable in the first place. He cited another case in 2011, when the city charged Nookie’s Restaurant a similar cost for a public records request. The case was tried and Umatilla County judge Jan Wyers ordered that the city pay over $9,000 to Nookie’s Restaurant for attorney fees and costs.
United Horseman continues to move forward with the proposed horse facility, but has not yet produced a land use request to Umatilla County. The proposed facility is outside Hermiston’s urban growth boundary.
Hermiston’s public records on the horse slaughter facility will take two weeks to process.
With records in hand, Duquette hopes to find out how animal rights groups aided the city in its fight to keep the slaughter facility out of the area.
“I’ve battled these groups like Humane Society on a national level,” he said. “I know that as soon as you start something like this (horse slaughter facility), they start funneling money in. I want to know what kind of help they received, and from who.”
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