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An open letter from Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake concerning Nike

(Soapboxes are guest opinions from the readers of the Beaverton Valley Times, and anyone is welcome to write one)

I am pleased the litigation between Nike and the city of Beaverton has ended.

For our part in this difficult situation, I regret the acrimony that existed and feel badly that we weren't able to find common ground to resolve the conflict.

I reach out in friendship to Nike believing that we should be looking forward and not back.

The conflict began with Nike seeking public records from the city regarding annexation.

State law allows for governments to charge reasonable fees to assemble the information.

Ultimately, the volume of Nike's request for information was among the largest ever asked of a local government in Oregon and unprecedented in scope and detail.

The search request dictated the high cost. The city only asked that Nike pay in advance for the information they sought because of the estimated costs for the production.

In addition, Nike believed that city leaders were holding illegal meetings online via use of their home computers and sued the city and elected officials to produce the hard drives of the home computers.

In fact, Nike initially asked that the home computers of all the approximate 450 city employees also be allowed to be scanned and searched.

Though we considered it very invasive of personal privacy for Nike to be able to examine our home computers, while formally objecting I ultimately agreed to do so to prove that I had done nothing improper and had nothing to hide.

Council President Betty Bode's home computer was also copied and evaluated by Nike.

Despite producing over 30,000 pages of documents, nothing improper was found on Councilor Bode's and my home computers.

We thought that Nike would drop the suit once they learned the home computers contained no pertinent information or secret plans to annex them.

They did not.

After that, Nike's request for information over several months kept changing and Nike refused to confirm that the city even had the correct list of words.

Initially, Nike requested a search of the city's electronic records dating back five years.

In the end, the word search was determined entirely by Nike and approved by the judge, which included 16 key words such as 'Murray Road' and 'Tom Brian.'

Since their request was so broad, it ultimately led to the city initially scanning approximately 25 million pages of documents.

To handle such a large volume of information, we needed to hire and train 19 people to review the pages for exempt documents that contained sensitive and private personnel records (including medical records), police files (including sexual abuse and juvenile records), and private legal advice to the City Council and city personnel from the city attorney.

In October 2005, the city provided the court thousands of e-mails on two hard drives responsive to Nike's request, including the second draft of the annexation issues paper that discussed annexing many properties including Nike. That draft recommended against annexing Nike.

Nike refused to accept the offer of the two hard drives.

Since Nike was not happy with the pace the city was producing documents, the city was compelled by the court to hire a third-party contractor to finish the production of records.

This is also an unprecedented requirement in a public records request (and non-criminal proceeding).

None of the review of city's electronic files ever produced any documentation that the city had a secret plan to annex Nike.

Washington County adopted its County 2000 Plan in 1986 that defined future services by the county and its cities.

In 1993, the Oregon legislature adopted Senate Bill 122, which became law under the provisions of Oregon Revised Statutes 195 and further mandated counties to coordinate the future service boundaries for local governments.

For 20 years the county and each of its cities have been working to define services, establish future boundaries and meet the requirements of the law.

It should have been a surprise to no one that these efforts were under way.

Beaverton city staff did internally discuss many future areas and expanded services, but no plans to annex Nike were ever brought to the City Council as the city policymakers nor were they ever asked to annex the sporting goods company.

The city adopted its first actual annexation policy in coordination with the county in December 2004.

Beaverton was the last major city in the county to sign a similar Interim Urban Services Agreement with Washington County.

Current county policy calls for the urban unincorporated areas to ultimately annex to cities. It was concern with this new agreement that prompted Nike's attention.

The city's story has never been fully told and pertinent information has been distorted and ignored regularly by the region's daily newspaper.

The city never intentionally hid documents.

Many tens of thousands of documents are produced annually by each department and it is difficult to remember specific documents that are years old.

This is especially true of subjects like annexation that have been discussed for years in many different venues.

We had nothing to hide because of the open nature of the urban services discussion for the years preceding this litigation.

The mere size of Nike's public information request was unprecedented and overwhelmed the city's ability to respond in a quick fashion.

The city undertook this effort without the expertise to respond quickly to such a huge search and no assurance we'd be awarded cost reimbursement when the litigation was concluded.

We believe the judge erred by not requiring Nike to make payment in advance and ultimately ruling the city would also pay its own costs.

In the separate case involving the home computers, the judge ruled in favor of the city and required payment by Nike.

I believe it is time to move on from this litigation and focus all of our energies on serving Beaverton citizens.

Beaverton is already a great place to live, work and play.

In 2006, Money magazine named Beaverton one of the Best 100 Places to Live in America.

The Morgan Quitno Press ranked Beaverton the second safest mid/large sized city in the northwest in 2006.

In the previous year, Beaverton was named an All-America City Finalist.

We continue to have challenges, but I am confident that our city will excel as a leader in the county, region and state.