Oregon Supreme Court denies Salem appeal to withhold arrest records in sex abuse case

The lobby at Salem City Hall. (Salem Reporter files)

Updated 4:46 p.m. Jan. 18 with comments from City Manager Steve Powers.

After years of resisting, the city of Salem will have to disclose the arrest records of a local man convicted of sexually abusing a child.

The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday denied to take up an appeal by the city in its case against Pamplin Media Group, whose reporters at the Woodburn Independent sought the arrest records in 2015.

The denial leaves in place a September decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals ordering the city to disclose the records to the Portland-based media company.

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court decided not to review the Court of Appeals’ decision,” said Salem City Attorney Dan Atchison in an email.

Salem could ask the court to reconsider, but Atchison said the city wouldn’t. He also declined to answer whether the events will change city policies concerning public arrest records.

So ends a nearly four-year effort the city waged at an unknown cost to taxpayers. City Manager Steve Powers told Salem Reporter in December that city lawyers fought to protect privacy rights of victims, despite the appeals court’s decision saying arrest information could be disclosed without endangering them.

“The city remains concerned about future requests (for arrest records) and the potential impact on victims and prosecutions of child sex abuse that disclosure of the names and details of incidents will have,” Powers said Friday in an email.

In addition to the cost to pay its attorneys to pursue the case, the city faces the possibility of paying Pamplin’s legal fees dating back to the first court cases in 2015. Legal fees at the appeals court level reportedly cost $35,000.

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