Judge orders county to give records to McCarty

Jan. 2—A judge has ordered Baker County to give certain public records to David McCarty, and pay McCarty $200 for failing to provide records in a timely manner.

McCarty, who owns a 1,560-acre property along Pine Creek in the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Baker City, sued the county in April 2021.

He is asking for either a declaration that a disputed section of the Pine Creek Road crossing his property is not a public right-of-way, or, if a jury concludes there is legal public access, that the limits of that access be defined and that the county pay him $730,000 to compensate for the lost value of the land based on the legal public access and for other costs he has incurred as a result of the county's actions.

McCarty also claimed in the lawsuit that the county had violated Oregon's Public Records Law by failing to provide records that McCarty had requested.

The Pine Creek Road, which accesses public land in the Elkhorns, runs for about 2 1/2 miles through the 1,560-acre property that McCarty bought in September 2020.

In August 2022, Baker County commissioners approved a resolution declaring a section of the road as public.

McCarty has challenged that designation.

Judge Russell B. West's Dec. 29 ruling, however, deals with issues related to public records that McCarty raised in his 2021 lawsuit.

McCarty contends that the county has failed to supply all the public records he asked for in two separate requests, one in 2020 and one in 2021.

West agreed in part, writing in his Dec. 29 ruling that although the county has given some records to McCarty, the county must provide him with other records within 45 days.

West also ruled that McCarty can submit a request that the county pay some of McCarty's attorney fees, a request that West will consider during a hearing yet to be scheduled.

Although West ordered the county to supply records and pay the $200 penalty to McCarty, the judge disagreed with McCarty's characterization of the county's actions as "stonewalling."

"The court finds otherwise," West wrote in his Dec. 29 ruling. "On numerous occasions Defendant offered to let Plaintiff inspect and copy the records. Defendant instructed all of the custodians of records to cooperate and assist Plaintiff in his search for pertinent records and on several occasions Defendants department heads and elected officials did assist Plaintiff and his agent Joelleen Linstrom in locating records. Both sides misunderstand the duties of a public body under Oregon's public record law. Plaintiff contends that a public body must make copies of both paper and electronic records if the requestor requests copies. Defendant contends that a public body discharges its duty by making both paper records and electronic records available for inspection and copying."

Later in his ruling, West writes that the county did comply with Oregon's Public Records Law in providing copies of paper records to McCarty, but failed to comply with that law regarding some electronic records.

Other legal cases

McCarty is the defendant in a lawsuit filed in late July by two couples who own property along Pine Creek.

James and Sharen Sanders, and Thomas and Betty Ann Lager, are each seeking a monetary award of at least $250,000 as compensation for what they contend is the loss of enjoyment of their properties.

They say McCarty has prevented them from accessing their properties.

A status check hearing in that lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in Baker County Circuit Court.

McCarty was arrested on Sept. 26, 2022, on charges of aggravated theft, trespassing and criminal mischief. He is accused of breaking into a cabin that James and Sharen Sanders own along Pine Creek.

McCarty is scheduled to enter a plea to those charges Jan. 9 at 1:45 p.m. in Baker County Circuit Court.