As discussed in an earlier posting, the confidentiality of the mediation process enables disputants to engage in candid discussions without the risk that the information shared and options considered could later be used against either party in court later on. Confidentiality, while important to maintain the trust of parties in the mediation process, is a two-edged sword and can become an issue when the mediation addresses matters of great concern to the public, which is the situation in Corvallis, Oregon.
In a story reported this morning, the Corvallis School District and the Corvallis Education Association recently negotiated a new teachers’ contract with the assistance of a mediator, whose responsibilities included the preparation and submission of a fact-finding report. The parties had agreed that the report would remain confidential unless they were unsuccessful in reaching an agreement. Oregon law apparently permits governmental officials to withhold such documents from the public. But some, including at least one parent, are requesting the School District to make the report public to shed light on the financial issues that Corvallis schools are facing. Oregon law does not prohibit the disclosure of such reports, but whether school officials and the teachers’ union will agree to release the report remains to be seen.