U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), who while serving as Oregon labor commissioner used personal devices to discuss at least some state business, is now resisting handing over those devices for inspection.
In recent emails obtained by WW, Hoyle tells the Bureau of Labor & Industries, which she led from 2019 to the beginning of 2023, that she will produce the records herself, with the assistance of her attorney—even though BOLI officials made it clear it would be much swifter for the agency to scour the devices since they have the relevant software.
As WW reported last week, BOLI twice asked Hoyle earlier this year to produce all public records on her personal devices. Hoyle says she saw neither email. It was not until WW asked Hoyle about the requests last week that Hoyle reached out to the bureau.
Records previously provided by BOLI show that Hoyle did discuss state business from a cellphone—including a $554,000 grant the bureau awarded to a nonprofit co-founded by Rosa Cazares, CEO of the embattled La Mota dispensary chain whose business associate and longtime on-and-off partner was a top campaign donor to Hoyle. Current BOLI Commissioner Christina Stephenson revoked the grant this spring, after WW’s reporting on the cannabis outfit, because the grant would never pass legal muster with federal regulators.
Below is a recent exchange between Hoyle and BOLI records custodian Kelsey Dietrick about Hoyle turning over her cellphones.
Aug. 30, Hoyle to Dietrick: Hoyle explains that she missed both previous emails and would produce all BOLI-related texts on personal devices. “I would also like to put in a permanent public records request to have any documents that are sent to anyone concerning me. Please send those to me concurrently with the response to the requestor.”
Sept. 5, Hoyle emails Dietrick again: “I am going through all my texts and will send anything BOLI related that has not been previously produced.”
Sept. 5, Dietrick emails Hoyle: “For your phone records, the best way to do so is to make your personal devices available to the agency and we can assist you. This includes the two personal cell phones we are aware of as well as any other personal phones you may have used that hold BOLI related public records.”
Dietrick also asked that Hoyle return her BOLI-issued phone. Dietrick tells Hoyle that the bureau cannot accept a “permanent” records request.
Sept. 5, Hoyle responds: “Due to both the high volume of personal texts compared to the significantly lower volume of BOLI texts and also my knowledge of who I worked with while at BOLI, I don’t think it would be practical for BOLI to assist. My plan is to include any text having to do with BOLI work. I have started at A in my address book and have been copying everything that could possibly be included from requests for a call back to questions on policy issues.”
Hoyle adds: “Also if I gave you my cell phone, I would be without it and that is not possible at the moment.”
Sept. 6, Dietrick writes back: “Should you choose to provide access to your device, I believe we can do a download in about 20 minutes.” Dietrick says that Hoyle sorting through her own texts is “not ideal as we will be unable to search the content as thoroughly.”
Sept. 6, Hoyle replies: She’s on the East Coast and doesn’t return until late September. “I would like to get this done so there is no doubt that as soon as I was made aware of this request, I complied. My attorney has advised that we perform the production of public records ourselves so as to ensure that we are fully compliant and nothing is overlooked.”
Sept. 7, Hoyle tells BOLI: She will produce the records by the end of the month.