Local Governments in Oregon Shut Down Over New Ethics Disclosure Rules

Government is in crisis in Oregon as many parts of the state are operating without city leaders.

Nearly 200 public officials have resigned in mostly small towns in protest of a new law requiring a lot more openness than they want to give.

The Legislature and state ethics commission are asking just about every government official in the state — elected or appointed — to fill out a new form that requires disclosure of all income sources and all relatives, whether those relatives live in the state or not. The information is to be posted on the Internet.

Backers say sunshine laws are good, and the more openness the better.

"There's been a perception that in some communities there's been a 'you-scratch-my-back-and I'll-scratch-your-back' mentality," said Marge Easley of the Oregon League of Women Voters. "This is not to say that service of people who serve on these commissions and boards is not truly appreciated."

But opponents say they aren't feeling very appreciated, and argue that a lot of that detail is nobody's business, especially since many positions are voluntary and no one is enriching themselves from them.

As a result, in Union, Ore., for instance, a quorum could barely be reached at a recent planning commission meeting, and another meeting next month may not get one at all as one member told FOX News he's quitting over the intrusive rules.

Union County commissioners had to step in and appoint people to fill some of its vacancies, but many seats are still open.

The entire city councils of Summerville and nearby Elgin have resigned. The towns have had no government for a month.

The whole flap has re-opened an old wound that divides big-city and small-town Oregon.

"Rural Oregon gets painted sometimes as less intelligent or less able to take care of themselves, you know 'these poor country hicks'. It's easier to make legislation that affects people that you don't know and don't think are capable," said Union County Commissioner Colleen MacLeod.

Before the law changed, leaders in 97 cities were allowed to opt out of filing the ethics forms. They did, arguing that their government is already transparent because everyone knows everyone.

But the ethics commission says it's about fairness. Everyone is treated the same and so now no one is exempt.

FOX News' Dan Springer contributed to this report.