In her first major public records decision, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has denied The Oregonian’s request for the names and personnel records of the Department of Revenue workers whose errors led to the biggest tax fraud in state history, the paper reports. Revenue demoted one employee last month and took what it described as “formal disciplinary action” against three others following an internal investigation into how a Salem woman was able to claim $3.5 million in income and get a bogus $2.1 million refund from the state on a Visa debit card.
Krystle Reyes, 25, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for felony theft and tax evasion. But none of the state Revenue workers lost their jobs and agency officials have refused to name the two managers and two line staff involved, claiming the public didn’t need to know their names. The Oregonian filed an appeal to the attorney general, arguing that state law provides for the release of personnel records when there’s a compelling public interest. The newspaper also argued that the agency’s internal audit report did not fully explain how the fraud occurred, whether public officials were held accountable for their errors or what the agency has done to make sure it does not happen again. The office replied this week, “We conclude that no public interest would be served by releasing the names of the four public employees.”