Cover Oregon contractor claims state released confidential excerpts of company documents

Oracle wants the state of Oregon to pay a $100,000 fine for unwittingly releasing a brief containing excerpts of internal company documents that the company calls misleading.

The company, now battling the state in court over who is to blame for the $300 million Cover Oregon website debacle, says the state released a copy of a legal filing to the press that did not competently black out the excerpts from internal documents, and claims the move must have been intentional.

“It defies credulity to believe the state’s attorneys unwittingly applied incompetent redactions to their motion,” Oracle’s new motion says. “Even if the redaction failure was not intentional, it certainly was reckless.”

The company also is citing a Feb. 22 article published by the Portland Tribune to argue that a judge should deny a state motion that would allow some of the company’s internal documents become public.

“It is completely improper to require Oracle to defend itself in a trial-by newspaper where rules of civil procedure and evidence do not apply,” the company’s lawyer argued.

The latest dispute stems from the state’s Jan. 13 motion claiming that Oracle had improperly labeled documents as confidential that showed the company had lied to the public about the quality of its work on the website project. The motion blacked out excerpts from the documents in question.

On Feb. 22 the Tribune published an article based on an unredacted copy of the motion. The company's motion says the article was a result of the state’s release of the poorly redacted document, and that the article presented misleading excerpts in a way that could bias potential jurors. The company claims the Tribune story must be the result of a tip.

In the unredacted motion, the state presented an excerpt of a November 2013 email indicating an Oracle programmer felt an “army” of 200 programmers for the company was “rapoing” —an apparent typo — the state of Oregon “on something that will never work well.”

The company has declined to release documents to provide context for the excerpts, but says the programmer was referring to the then-state of the website and the need to upgrade a certain piece of Oracle software. State officials had been complaining of deficiencies in that piece of software for at least six months, documents show.

“When read in its entirety,” the motion says, “the email reflects banter (albeit colorful banter) among junior Oracle developers in which they are strategizing about how to ensure the State makes a change that will produce a long-term benefit.”

Soon after the poorly redacted document was sent out to The Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and the Tribune, the state’s lawyers alerted the firm to the mistake.

Oracle’s lawyer then demanded the state’s lawyers immediately notify reporters that confidential information had been disclosed and to ask reporters to delete the brief and not report on it. The state instead sent out an email urging reporters to “refer” to a second copy of the brief, which it described as the final version.

If the state had complied with Oracle’s request to alert the reporters to the presence of confidential information, it would have likely prompted them to write a story revealing it, says Judson Randall, a former reporter and president of the freedom of information group Open Oregon. Reporters had no obligation to delete the poorly redacted brief or comply with a confidentiality order that they didn’t sign.

“You can’t unring the bell,” Randall says.

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