The Coalition conducts public workshops and forums around the state, involving the public, public officials, and the media in discussing government accessibility as provided in the various statutes that assure such access and accountability from our public agencies.
HeraldNet: December 11, 2013
By: Noah Haglund and Scott North
EVERETT -- An example needs to be made of the former Snohomish County aide now accused of trying to scrub data and other evidence of potential misconduct from a county owned computer, says one of the state's leading advocates for preserving access to public records.
Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, said Tuesday that the case emerging against Kevin Hulten appears ripe for prosecution under a seldom-used state law that makes it a felony to "unlawfully remove, alter, mutilate, destroy, conceal or obliterate" public records. If the allegations about Hulten prove true, prosecutors should send a strong message to discourage others in government from similar attempts to destroy public records, Nixon said.
Public records lawsuit against county withdrawn
The Columbian: December 11, 2013
By: Stevie Mathieu
A Vancouver man withdrew on Wednesday a lawsuit he filed just one day prior that alleged Clark County officials ignored his public records request.
Ed Ruttledge’s lawsuit alleged that the county did not respond whatsoever to his May 31 request for documents related to why county commissioners hired state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to head the Environmental Services Department.
Ruttledge’s lawyer, Greg Ferguson, said Wednesday morning that Ruttledge has since discovered an email response he received from the county on June 10.
“The original email message was resident on a hard drive that failed and was later replaced,” according to a press release from Ferguson’s office.
The Columbian: December 10, 2013
By: Stevie Mathieu
A Vancouver man is suing Clark County for allegedly stonewalling a public records request he says would shed light on why county commissioners hired Don Benton to head the Environmental Services Department.
Ed Ruttledge says he submitted his public records request to numerous county officials on May 31, and he's yet to hear so much as a peep in return. According to state public disclosure laws, agencies have five days to respond to a public records request by either handing over the requested documents, denying the request based on legal exemptions, or by giving the person an estimated wait time for fulfilling the request.
"The email request landed in the in-box of half a dozen county employees, including the county commissioners and a county lawyer, yet not a single one of them felt compelled to act on it," Ruttledge's attorney, Greg Ferguson, said in a news release. Ruttledge's suit also seeks up to $100 in fines for each day the county ignores his request, as well as attorney fees, according to court documents filed Tuesday.Read More>>
Ex-aide to Reardon may face criminal tampering charge
HeraldNet: December 9, 2013
By: Noah Haglund and Scott North
EVERETT -- One of Aaron Reardon's aides could face a criminal evidence-tampering charge after an investigation found evidence he tried to scrub data from a laptop used in a scheme to harass the former Snohomish County executive's political enemies. The county-owned laptop was provided to Kevin Hulten, 34, for his work as Reardon's legislative analyst. On March 11, just before county staff collected the laptop as part of a King County Sheriff's Office investigation into his activities, Hulten allegedly used a data-wiping program to scrub the device. While a lot of information was lost, Hulten's digital fingerprints still were recovered from the laptop and from other county-owned computers — including those on desks within Reardon's former office suite.
Attorney General makes good call in hiring new open government ombudsman
Union-Bulletin: December 2, 2013
Open government is an expectation to most folks who live in Washington state. Government at the state and local levels is generally transparent in dealings with the public.
But that just doesn’t happen. It occurs because open government laws have been established through a voter-approved measure and a long line of government officials have made public access to government a priority.
The latest to carry on the tradition is Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who was elected to the post last fall.
This week Ferguson announced he filled the vacant open government ombudsman and made the job a full-time position in the Attorney General’s Office.
Ferguson hired Nancy Kreier, a lawyer for the state Public Disclosure Commission, to replace Tim Ford who did the job — and did it very well — since 2007.
Public access, so pesky
HeraldNet: November 27, 2013
The largest lobbying force in Olympia is comprised of folks hailing from cities, counties and other local governing bodies. They converge on the capitol waving wish lists filled with everything from capital projects, operating programs, special exemptions and local taxing authority.
Lately, local governments have complained they are being assailed by troublemakers who abuse the state's Public Records Act. They describe city halls and agency offices stretched to the breaking point by massive, malicious, money-wasting requests for documents.
Tax exemptions, transparency, and a hotel bill
The Washington Policy Center: November 6, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
I was supposed to be on the road to Olympia this morning for a Thursday House Finance Work Session to discuss tax exemptions and WPC's recommendation to eliminate targeted tax exemptions and instead replace the B&O tax with a revenue neutral single business tax.
With the Governor calling a Boeing Special Session for Thursday at 9 a.m., however, the House work session has been understandably canceled. Since this all transpired with less than 24 hrs notice, however, I missed the opportunity to cancel my hotel room in time to avoid been charged.
So what's the big deal? This is the perfect example of the need for our proposed legislative transparency reforms and providing the opportunity for remote testimony.
While short notice of hearings is tough for even those living in Olympia, those that live a great distance from the Capitol have little to no chance to make it to a public hearing in time to testify.
Lawmaker answers state high court's 'executive privilege' ruling
WA State House of Representatives: November 1, 2013
Citizens and the press would be guaranteed access to public records from thegovernor’s office, under an amendment to the Washington Constitution that state Rep. Gerry Pollet will propose in the 2014 Legislature.
Pollet’s constitutional right-to-know amendment responds to the recent “sweepingstate supreme court decision granting the governor ‘executive privilege’ to refuse to disclose public records.” He likened the state high court’s decision to the so-calledexecutive privilege claimed 40 years ago by former President Richard Nixon.
“We must establish such protection in law for this fundamental right of the public to know what our state government is doing – and who is influencing our governor,” Pollet said. “The amendment will prevent this wrongful use of executive privilege as a way to avoid disclosure of records. I believe such an amendment is vital to protecting democracy here in our state of Washington.”
Does 'executive privilege' ruling challenge public's right to know?
The Advance: October 31, 2013
At least one lawmaker is taking great exception to the Washington State Supreme Court’s recent “executive privilege” decision. In fact, state Rep. Gerry Pollet is researching the idea of a “right-to-know amendment” to the Washington State Constitution, guaranteeing access to public records from the governor’s office.
The court’s decision grants the governor executive privilege to refuse to disclose material that Pollet maintains is the very principle of public information. Pollet calls the state high court’s executive-privilege decision “a potentially sweeping assault on the rights of citizens and the media to obtain the public records needed to make informed decisions and to conduct informed news-reporting.”
The Wenatchee World: October 26, 2013
Our governor is entitled, by the constitution, to operate in a shroud of secrecy, the state Supreme Court has ruled. Our governor is due to the same black cloak of “executive privilege” granted President Richard Nixon as he tried to block disclosure of his secrets. The state’s long tradition of open government, the Public Records Act approved by voters requiring records be open unless specifically exempt, none of that applies to the state’s executive. Should a citizen ask to view a document, the governor may “invoke a gubernatorial communications privilege” in response. The governor need not provide further justification. The citizen will have to go to court to prove a particular need, expensive and unlikely.
Elect future governors that pledge transparency
The Olympian: October 24, 2013
Noting that Washington’s constitution delegates supreme executive power to the governor, the state Supreme Court has found the right to withhold information among those executive privileges. It’s a technically sound decision that nevertheless undermines the intent of the Public Records Act.
Passed as a citizen’s initiative with a 72 percent yes vote in 1972, Washington’s Public Records Act set a national precedent for other states.
Editorial: Public Records Act should apply to governor
The Spokesman-Review: October 24, 2013
An extraordinarily deferential Washington Supreme Court handed former Gov. Chris Gregoire a victory last week, one that should be as short-lived as possible.
The justices, with only one dissent, established a broad executive privilege that allows a governor considerable discretion in deciding what documents are public, and what he or she can withhold.
Gregoire had denied the libertarian Freedom Foundation access to documents regarding negotiations to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct in Seattle, a biological opinion on Columbia River fish, and medical marijuana. Executive privilege, she said, assured candid communications related to fulfillment of her constitutional duties.
Peter Callaghan: A bad open government ruling 14 years in the making
The News Tribune: October 20, 2013
By: Peter Callaghan
I wasn’t as shocked as some last week when the state Supreme Court found that governors have a constitutional exemption from disclosing certain documents to the public.
Since I’d been denied records by a former governor who cited executive privilege, a decision backed up by a past attorney general, I assumed there was a strong likelihood the court would side with those who felt executive privilege existed.
What was disturbing though, was the court’s refusal to narrow the privilege that was created by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving President Richard Nixon and his attempt to hide recordings made in his office. The release of the Oval Office tapes was the final nail in Nixon’s coffin, politically speaking at least.
Spokane County commissioners' urban growth session broke law, lawsuit says The Spokesman-Review: October 19, 2013
By: Mike Prager
Spokane County commissioners violated the state’s open public meetings law by holding a closed-door session with a state official last spring to consider expansion of the county’s urban growth area, a new lawsuit says.
The Center for Justice, a public-interest law firm, filed a complaint Friday in Spokane County Superior Court seeking to reverse any deliberations or decision reached during the May 13 meeting. The suit also asks for $100 civil penalties against each of the county’s three elected commissioners.
Editorial: Sunshine's Sunset?
The Dalles Chronicle: October 19, 2013
The back rooms of government may no longer be smoke-filled, but they are becoming even more exclusive than in the past.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled Oct. 17 that the state’s governor can claim “executive privilege” as a reason to withhold documents from the public.
Executive privilege hasn’t been among the hundreds of exemptions to Washington’s sunshine laws — until now, that is.
Tacoma candidates less than open with Washington Coalition for Open Government
The News Tribune: October 15, 2013
By: Peter Callaghan
I guess I could understand one or two candidates failing to complete the questionnaire that seeks their views on open government issues facing the state.
The Washington Coalition for Open Government's questionnaire is one of many that candidates receiving during campaign season.
But of the 15 Tacoma candidates the coalition sent invitations to, just two replied. They are Tacoma Port Commissioner Connie Bacon and Civil Service Board candidate Janis Clark.
Spokane Public Schools to pay $130,000 in public records dispute
The Spokesman-Review: October 9, 2013
By: Jody Lawrence-Turner
Spokane Public Schools will pay a Spokane woman with a history of needling officials $130,000 after failing to comply with a 2009 public records request.
Laurie Rogers is a private tutor, frequent critic and describes herself as an advocate for transparent government.
She had filed a request for all “promotional materials on the 2006 and 2009 bonds and levies.”
The district failed to fulfill her request for records when it took a narrow definition of her inquiry and made missteps.
“We don’t do promotional materials. We do informational,” said Mark Anderson, associate superintendent. “We quickly gathered all the materials we thought complied and gave them to her. What we didn’t realize was our archivist only went back to 2008, and we would have needed to ask each individual employee (for documents going back to 2006).”
The district also failed to include an index to list legal justification for redactions within the public documents.
Updated: Noted inmate Allan Parmelee dies at Washington State Penitentiary
Union-Bulletin.com: October 3, 2013
By: Andy Porter
WALLA WALLA -- A prison inmate who gained fame through his use, and abuse, of the state public records access laws died today.
Allan Parmelee, 58, was pronounced dead about 6:24 a.m. at the Washington State Penitentiary. Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood said the preliminary cause of death was natural causes. An autopsy is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday.
According to a 2009 Seattle Times article, Parmelee was serving 17 years for firebombing the cars of two lawyers. During his time in custody, he filed hundreds of public records requests demanding judges', lawyers' and correctional officers' personnel records, photos, addresses, work schedules and birth dates. According to news reports, he once threatened to tear out a court reporter's fingernails.
Parmelee won a legal victory in 2010 when the state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Corrections must pay his attorney's fees after DOC officials cited him under a criminal libel law, passed in 1869, and gave him 10 days in isolation.
Inslee pushes tax break to win Boeing 777X project
Crosscut.com: October 2, 2013
By: John Stang
As Gov. Jay Inslee urged tax breaks for Boeing, a Washington legislative task force on winning future Boeing 777X aircraft work for the state began its work Wednesday in secret.
The task force's first meeting was closed of the public. A Crosscut reporter was escorted out of the meeting in Everett's Comcast Arena while being told by an Inslee administration official that it could be kept closed because a majority of the House or Senate was not present. Washington legislative committee and task force meetings have been routinely open to the public. A climate change task force involving legislators and Inslee also has been meeting in public.
Inslee and several legislators were present in the aerospace task force meeting. The task bipartisan force, which Inslee reportedly picked, has six House members and six Senate members.
Is the Public Records Act Working? Can it Be Improved? Let's Find Out.
MRSC Insight: September 25, 2013
By: Joe Levan
An important effort is currently underway that I think merits the particular attention of local government officials and employees throughout Washington state. This collaborative effort relates to exploring improvements to our state’s Public Records Act (PRA), chapter42.56 RCW.
for the Ruckelshaus center to collaborate with local governments, the media, and representatives of the public regarding public record requests made to local government. The center shall facilitate meetings and discussions and report to the appropriate committees of the legislature.
How-to forum on open government
PT Leader: September 18, 2013
By: Scott Wilson
On Sept. 1, 2013 the New York Times revealed that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had been collecting data on millions of phone calls from and to Americans through a secret program called the Hemisphere Project for at least six years.
The program, said the news story, had been ongoing for a far longer time than the recently disclosed National Security Agency (NSA) programs of domestic web and phone traffic tracking.
Justice Department Raises the Standards for the Freedom of Information Act, One Step at a Time
Center for Effective Government: September 24, 2013
By: Gavin Baker
Oversight of how federal agencies implement the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is critical to ensuring the public has robust access to government records. The Justice Department's Office of Information Policy (OIP) recently issued its annual assessment of how well agencies are processing FOIA requests and announced plans to substantially improve its assessment measures next year. The more robust assessment tool will better hold agencies accountable for providing information to the public.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone may request information from a federal agency on critical topics like food safety, compliance with environmental standards, and special interest influence in government decision making. The act is the cornerstone of government transparency. Agencies are required by law to promptly provide the information requested, unless it is specifically exempted, such as classified national security information.
Washington coalition recognizes Kirkland for open government
Kirkland Reporter: September 23, 2013
The Washington Coalition for Open Government recognized the Kirkland City Council during the Sept. 17 meeting for its recent adoption of records retention rules and procedures.
The Coalition’s board of directors voted unanimously to present its Key Award to the city of Kirkland in recognition of the city’s adoption of its comprehensive and innovative new public records ordinance and rules.
The Council adopted a public disclosure ordinance and approved updated Public Records Act rules on July 16 to further define the city’s process to help ensure compliance with the Public Records Act and to prevent excessive interference with other essential functions of the agency.
Our Voice: Open government needs full-time legal advocate
Tri-City Herald: September 18, 2013
It's a good week for open government in Washington.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday that he will hire a full-time ombudsman to focus solely on the state's sunshine laws.
"In the interest of promoting open, transparent government, I have decided to invest in a full-time open government ombudsman position that serves the public, media and government agencies on open government issues," Ferguson said in a statement. "Government is better served when the public is informed and able to engage in our democracy -- and government agencies better serve the people when they fully understand and follow open government laws."
Should marijuana locations be shielded from public?
The Olympian: September 17, 2013
By: Jordan Schrader
Should the public be allowed to know the locations of state-licensed marijuana companies?
Information about the licenses to be handed out next spring will be public, the state Liquor Control Board says, and likely posted on the board's website.
A local official on the state Sunshine Committeeraised the possibility Tuesday that disclosure could present problems.
State auditor to review port's handling of oil terminal meeting
The Columbian: September 16, 2013
By: Aaron Corvin
The Washington State Auditor's Office will examine the Port of Vancouver's decision to bar the public from a discussion of a controversial oil terminal as part of its next regular review of the port in April 2014. Meanwhile, the port says it has employed a new procedure to ensure it complies with the state's open public meetings law.
The investigation into the port's compliance with open public meetings law will occur during "our upcoming annual financial, single …and accountability audits of the port," Thomas Shapley, deputy director of communications for the auditor's office, said Monday.
Judge orders Marysville to pay Cedar Grove $143,000
HeraldNet: September 10, 2013
By: Bill Sheets
EVERETT -- The city of Marysville was ordered Monday by a judge to pay more than $143,000 to Cedar Grove Composting for violations of the state public disclosure law.
Appeals court voids $650K award to woman in public-records case
The News Tribune
By: Adam Lynn
A state appeals court panel has ruled that now-retired Pierce County Judge Frederick Fleming was wrong to award $650,000 in damages and fees to an abuse victim who sued the Department of Social and Health Services to get investigative records.
In a decision released Tuesday, the Division II panel ruled some of the records sought by Amber Wright were not subject to the state's Public Records Act and that others were not improperly withheld by DSHS because Wright's request for them was too vague.
High court rules to release psychological report in Seattle slayings
The Seattle Times: September 5, 2013
By: Sara Jean Green
The state Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously agreed with the public release of a redacted forensic psychological evaluation that found Dr. Louis Chen competent to stand trial on two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the August 2011 deaths of his partner and their young son in Seattle.
Chen’s defense team had sought to have the competency report sealed — and advocated for a rule to seal all competency reports involving criminal defendants, according to the defense brief written by Seattle attorney Todd Maybrown and submitted to the Supreme Court last November. Chen’s defense argued that failure to seal Chen’s competency report would jeopardize his privacy rights.
Battle Ground school board admits "violating trust" over Bria departure
The Columbian: August 27, 2013
By: Susan Parrish
The Battle Ground school board acknowledged Tuesday morning that it violated the public’s trust in its handling of the departure of Superintendent Shonny Bria.
Bria left in June with a severance package of more than $400,000 that had been negotiated behind closed doors two months earlier. The board kept the agreement a secret, even going so far as to tell staff and the public that Bria would get no payouts other than her accumulated sick leave. A state accountability audit is expected to determine whether board members violated the state’s public records and open meetings laws.
Ford out as open-government ombudsman
The Olympian: August 22, 2013
By: Jordan Schrader
The job in Washington that is supposed to keep a watchful eye on government — from within government — is vacant.
Open-government ombudsman Tim Ford left the state attorney general’s office last week to take a job in the state Senate.
Ford’s former supervisor is handling the duties for now. But Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he will replace Ford and might even restore the ombudsman to a full-time job, as it was before it fell victim to budget cuts.
Battle to restrict public records requests heats up
HeraldNet: August 22, 2013
By: Jerry Cornfield
Those looking for a more transparent government are increasingly relying on public records to make it happen. They hope the more documents they obtain the clearer their view of what's really going on behind closed doors in school districts, city halls and county buildings. But there are those throughout the public sector convinced some of these Washingtonians are abusing the Public Records Act. An alliance of government forces -- whose members often are the targets of the records -- tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to rewrite the act to make it easier to repel requesters whose motives they question. With the help of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, they pushed a bill to make it easier for public agencies to block requests and to limit the time spent compiling records.
Seattle-area Housing Authority institutes transparency reforms
National Freedom of Information Coalition: August 6, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. (August 6, 2013) – A public housing agency serving suburban Seattle, Wash., will institute a sweeping series of transparency measures as a result of a lawsuit made possible by the inspired persistence of an engaged public housing resident and a litigation grant made under the Knight FOI Fund. Cindy Ference, a tenant in a King County Housing Authority complex for senior and disabled people in Shoreline, Wash., sued the housing agency over open-meetings violations in April after learning it had set up a shadow entity to carry out some of its programs without public oversight. Ms. Ference and her attorney, Katherine George, reached a settlement agreement with the Housing Authority to ensure that the public can learn about programs of the agency as well as its shadow entity, a nonprofit called Moving King County Residents Forward.
Appeals Court: state Licensing should be fined for wrongfully
withholding records from prison inmate
The Olympian: July 31, 2013
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that the state Department of Licensing wrongfully withheld records from a prison inmate in 2009 and should pay penalties to the man for its violation of the Public Records Act.
At issue was Derek Gronquist’s request under the Public Records Act for the business license application filed for Maureen’s House Cleaning, a business. Gronquist was held at the prison in Monroe at the time of his July 2009 records request.
Editorial: Protect state's Public Records Act
The Seattle Times: July 20, 2013
DISCREETLY tucked into the 487-page state operating budget is a proviso requiring the William D. Ruckelshaus Center at Washington State University to study “potential harassment of state employees.”
The alleged source of that harassment? Citizens using the state Public Records Act.
That act, passed in the post-Watergate heyday of open government, is the strongest buttress for clean, transparent local governance. But it is under attack, once again.
During the legislative session, local governments rolled out a handful of anecdotes in which trolls “harassed” public officials by abusing the Public Records Act.
Editorial: Real impact of ballot's advisory votes murky
The Spokesman-Review: July 18, 2013
The ballot for this off-year election got a lot fatter Tuesday when Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson determined the Legislature enacted five tax increases that should be subject to advisory votes.
This will be the second go-round for the advisories, which have all the weight of an elephant in outer space. No matter how overwhelmingly voters reject tax legislation after the fact, results do not overturn the law.
But the outcome, according to initiative impresario Tim Eyman, puts legislators on notice. The votes of each one on each piece of tax legislation must be included on the ballot so they can be held to account. That remains to be seen.
Times' Mike Carter wins public records award
The Seattle Times: July 13, 2013
Seattle Times criminal-justice reporter Mike Carter has received a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for his perseverance in pursuing the public release of a May Day 2012 memo that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) initially claimed did not exist.
Carter, 58, said the award, presented Friday, came “right out of the blue.”
In May, the SPD admitted it violated the state Public Records Act by withholding from The Times an internal memorandum about the department’s response to the violent demonstrations of May Day 2012. The department agreed to pay $20,000 to the newspaper and its attorneys to avoid a lawsuit.
No public records reform in 2013
AWC: July 11, 2013
Relief from harassing and abusive public records was one of AWC’s major legislative priorities for 2013. We worked with a number of local government associations representing counties, ports, school districts, and others on a legislative approach targeted to providing local government with a tool to protect taxpayer resources against abuses of the public records act. All those involved are committed to preserving open and transparent government but are concerned that a few individuals with dubious intentions are using this important law to waste resources and harass local governments. Open government proponents continue to have a lack of appreciation for the harm done by and the significant costs from harassing requests.
Editorial: Officials should make effort to follow Public Records Act
The Spokesman-Review: July 11, 2013
Last session, the Washington Legislature killed the latest effort to relax the Public Records Act. But such bids are like zombies, so we expect it to rise up and stalk lawmakers again.
House Bill 1128 addressed the purportedly pervasive problem of government workers being harassed by serial records requesters. There are occasional examples of this scattered around the state. At the same time, officials resist the available remedies that would mitigate the alleged harassment.
One problem with the bill was that agencies were left to determine which requests were legitimate. A prime example of why this was a bad idea occurred this week. The town of Coulee Dam received a request for some records from the Washington Coalition of Open Government, which is in the middle of a project seeking to determine the level of harassment and how agencies are responding to it. At present, complaints about the high costs of filling requests are merely anecdotal, but that hasn’t stopped municipalities from lobbying the state for relief.
Apparently not knowing whom he was dealing with, Mayor Quincy Snow replied:
“My clerk has received a public records request from you and I have a problem with that. First of all, are you with the State of Washington or are you a non profit outfit? I know why you are doing this and HE won’t get help this way. I am fed up with this kind of harassment and my clerk has a lot of work on her plate and can’t take the time to play silly games. I will be in contact with my State Senator about this as soon as I get done here. Could you give me a list of all the other towns that have received a letter from you … that is my records request.”
Battle Ground school district may have violated state law
The Columbian: July 11, 2013
By: Susan Parrish
Battle Ground Public Schools appears to have violated the state's Public Records Act by withholding a severance agreement with its embattled former superintendent.
The school board members signed an agreement with Superintendent Shonny Bria on April 29, withheld the document for almost two months, and when The Columbian and The Reflector made specific public records requests about Bria's compensation, the district denied that such a record existed.
"When it's signed by both parties, it then becomes a public document," said Matt Miller, deputy state auditor of the Washington State Auditor's Office.
Miller said he will be looking at the Battle Ground case.
The school board's agreement with Bria "is on my radar," said Tina Watkins of the state auditor's office. Watkins noted that she's read the newspaper articles about the Bria agreement and has kept copies in the district's file.
Public info belongs to the people
Union-Bulletin: July 10, 2013
By: Editorial Board
When a King County Superior Court judge ordered the city of Shoreline to pay $538,555 in penalty and legal costs to resolve a seven-year lawsuit over public records, many taxpayers raised their eyebrows.
After all, the city officials who used bad judgment won’t pay the bill, the people will. And that thought tends to bring out feelings of anger aimed at those who sue to obtain public records.
That anger is misguided. The majority of those seeking public records are doing so for legitimate reasons — whether news media or citizens — and are ultimately ensuring the public has appropriate access to information from the people’s government.
Public officials, such as those in Shoreline, are not doing their jobs when they take unreasonable stands to block the release of information to protect themselves or the government from humiliation or worse.
In the Shoreline case, the information was being sought by Beth and Doug O’Neil after the content of an email criticizing the Shoreline City Council was read aloud at a meeting and incorrectly attributed to Beth O’Neil. She wanted to know who wrote the email and requested a copy.
Clallam hires attorney for embattles county official Sheila Roark Miller
Peninsuladailynews.com: July 2, 2013
By: Rob Ollikainen and Paul Gottlie
PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has hired an attorney to represent its community development director in matters related to ethical complaints about her conduct as an elected official.
The three commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a professional services agreement with the Law Office of Kenneth W. Bagwell Inc. of Silverdale to represent department Director Sheila Roark Miller against claims she illegally altered, destroyed or backdated public records.
The county will pay Bagwell $250 per hour — or $2,000 for an eight-hour day — for the conflict representation and $300 for each court appearance through the end of this year, unless the parties agree to terminate the agreement sooner, to represent Roark Miller.
There is no cap on the contract.
Just to clarify: Dancing with wolves a winner; driving in cars a loser
The News Tribune: July 2, 2013
By: Peter Callaghan
It’s not that I want to reduce the complexities of a series of Washington legislative sessions that lasted 153 days. It’s just that I’m obligated to do so by the unwritten law of oversimplification.
The War on Cars – Was Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn setting transportation policy for the Majority Coalition Caucus in the state Senate? Why else would the caucus stand in the way of a 101/2-cent gas tax to raise billions of dollars to pour miles of new concrete throughout the state? Traffic is likely to get so bad folks might actually think about taking the bus just when there are fewer buses to take.
Peace in Our Time – Forget the Arabs and Israelis. Give up on GOP Sens. Don Benton and Ann Rivers. Gay couples and that florist in Richland? Not a chance. But thanks to the thoughtful work of our legislators, there is a glimmer of hope for peace between livestock and mammalian apex predators. Washington State University is getting $600,000 to search for nonlethal means of ending the ongoing conflict between cows and wolves.
Too busy for an open government
Smarter Government Washington: June 26, 2013
During my time as Attorney General, my office emphasized the importance of open, transparent government. That included advising state agencies and local governments on how to meet their requirements under the Public Records Act.
Open government isn’t just about accountability, it’s also about giving citizens confidence in their government and its actions. A false political crisis shouldn’t distract any government agency from completing one of its most important functions.Read More>>
Politics is what happens when the public isn't watching
The Bellingham Herald: June 25, 2013
By: Ralph Schwartz
It takes a sharp political reporter to get to the real stories about what happens in the halls of government.
As the state Legislature rushes to pass a 2013-15 budget before a partial government shutdown on Monday, July 1, the Washington Policy Center sensibly wonders, will we know everything that’s in the final budget?
Is it too cynical to wonder whether someone might slip something into a document, hundreds of pages long, that would escape notice before final passage? I don’t think so.
There was confusion around the final version of a bill of particular local interest in the rush on June 13 to pass this bill. Senate Bill 5296 reforms how toxics cleanup money is spent, and local leaders expect it will accelerate cleanup of the Bellingham waterfront.Read More>>
You know what's in the pending 2013-15 budget, right?
The Washington Policy Center: June 25, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
With a 2013-15 budget deal "imminent" one of the remaining questions left to be answered is whether lawmakers and the public will be provided adequate time to review the details before a vote on final passage occurs. We believe at a minimum the time provided for budget transparency should be at least 24 hrs.
New Washington state budget due on June 1 under state law
State Budget Solutions: May 16, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
With it being all quiet on the Western Legislative Front, there is one date to keep in mind concerning the ongoing state budget negotiations: June 1.
While there are rumors that lawmakers may wait for the June 18 Revenue Forecast to see if the recent improvement in state economic activity can help bridge the budget divide, state law may make waiting that long a bit tricky.
According to RCW 43.88.080 (emphasis added):
"Adoption of budget. Adoption of the omnibus appropriation bill or bills by the legislature shall constitute adoption of the budget and the making of appropriations therefor. A budget for state government shall be finally adopted not later than thirty calendar days prior to the beginning of the ensuing biennium."
Senators may meet via teleconference during special session; remote testimony options for citizens next?
WA Policy Center: May 15, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
While there isn't much news coming out of Olympia since the Special Session started on Monday there is one development that could hold huge implications for citizens going forward. At a media availability on Monday Senate Republican Leader Sen. Schoesler said that Senators may meet via teleconference to help keep cost down for members living out of the area.
Should these teleconference meetings for Senators be successful they could help grease the skids for efforts to provide citizens remote testimony options.
Court official temporarily blocks release of key video in assault case against SPD officer
Seattle Times: May 15, 2013
By: Steve Miletich
In a ruling Monday, a court commissioner found that Seattle police Officer Chris Hairston would be harmed if patrol-car video were disclosed to the news media before he can argue it shouldn't be made public at this stage of the case.
A King County court commissioner on Monday temporarily blocked the release of patrol-car video considered to be key evidence in an assault case brought against a Seattle police officer.
Redact or Withhold? Will the State Supreme Court's New Disclosure Flow Chart Be Useful?
Foster Pepper: May 10, 2013
Yesterday was a busy day for public records issues, as the Washington Supreme Court issued two detailed decisions relating to the State Public Records Act. In Ameriquest Mortgage Co. v. Office of the Attorney General, the Court held records that include personal financial information protected under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA) must be withheld from disclosure under Washington's PRA, even if the protected information could be redacted. On the other hand, in Resident Action Council v. Seattle Housing Authority, the Court held that records including information protected by certain federal housing regulations must be disclosed under Washington's PRA, after making appropriate redactions.Read More>>
Supreme Court considering cutting records access
Herald: May 10, 2013
By: Eric Stevick
EVERETT -- An advisory committee to the state Supreme Court is considering proposals that could curtail public access to some court records.
One proposal would prevent permanent online access to court records in cases when a suspect makes a preliminary appearance but no criminal charges are ever filed.
Another would allow defendants who've been acquitted or whose cases have been dismissed to seek a hearing before a judge to get the actual paper court records sealed. There is nothing being proposed that would automatically seal documents. A person would still need to file a motion with the court and prove that their case is different from others.Read More>>
Washington's health insurance exchange doesn't have California's problem with transparency
Puget Sound Business Journal: May 9, 2013
By: Valerie Bauman
California's health insurance exchange is fraught with secrecy, thanks to the way that state built its response to federal health insurance reform. But Washington state doesn't have that problem.
The Associated Press published an exclusive report Thursday detailing how California's law grants the state authority to conceal how the state spends money when handing out the lucrative contracts required to build a state exchange.
Public Hearings -- How Much Notice Is Required?
MRSC Insight: May 8, 2013
By: Jim Doherty
MRSC routinely receives calls on this issue, and as with many issues, the answer is: “that depends.” There are many public hearings that cities and counties are required by statute to hold – for instance, when a city or county enacts a moratorium or interim zoning control, adopts the annual (or biennial) budget, adopts a comprehensive plan, etc. Often the statutes that require a public hearing specify precisely how much notice must be given to the public and how the notice is to be provided; sometimes they do not.
To assist with looking up public hearing requirements, MRSC has compiled two handy lists of the many statutes that require cities and counties to hold public hearings: Actions for Which a Public Hearing Is Required in Washington Counties; and Actions for Which a Public Hearing Is Required in Washington Cities and Towns.
Editorial: Bring transparency to King County Housing Authority's shadow agency
The Seattle Times: May 4, 2013
LAST November, the King County Housing Authority quietly granted a 30-year lease on 509 of its apartment units to an obscure nonprofit agency called Moving King County Residents Forward.
The deal happened in an open meeting, as required by the state Open Public Meetings Act, since the housing authority is a public agency. But since then, getting information about how this nonprofit operates has been difficult, since nonprofit agencies aren’t required to operate with the same level of transparency.
That is especially odd because the housing authority created Moving King County Residents Forward. The organizations share identical governing boards, and the housing authority’s deputy director is the nonprofit’s registered agent.Read More>>
Search of KCHA official's browser shows work isn't a priority
The Olympia Report: May 2, 2013
By: Jeff Rhodes
Whoever it was who said you can’t fight city hall obviously knew nothing about public records requests.
Bothell resident Todd Hodgen knew better when he filed an information request last month with the King County Housing Authority for some basic financial information and, in turn, found himself the object of a background search.
An information technology specialist himself, Hodgen subsequently noted that Mark Abernathy, the Housing Authority’s public records officer, had visited his LinkedIn page, indicating he had run a Google search on Hodgen’s name after receiving the information request — a clear violation of state law.
“Public records are just that — public,” said Tim Ford, open government ombudsman in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. “Anyone is entitled to request any information they please and the agency may not discriminate based on the identity of the requester. No one can be treated differently.”
Juvenile-court records could be sealed
The Seattle Times: April 27, 2013
Open records put youth at a disadvantage
As prime sponsor of House Bill 1651, I was disappointed to see The Seattle Times editorial assert that HB 1651 is unconstitutional [“Editorial: Don’t seal all juvenile-court records,” Opinion, April 22].
Until 1977, all juvenile records were closed to the public without any constitutional issue. Currently, records for certain types of cases are already kept confidential without being deemed in violation of the constitution.
Under HB 1651, juvenile-court proceedings would remain open to the public, satisfying the constitutional requirement that justice be “administered openly.” Furthermore, records would remain available to the courts and law enforcement so that public safety can be protected. Juvenile records would still be available for research purposes to ensure government accountability. They just would not be sold to credit bureaus, as juvenile arrest and conviction records currently are, and would not be put on the web.
On The Record
KBTC: April 25, 2013
In this edition of Northwest Now, On the Record: The battle over your right to know, members of the Washington Coalition for Open Government talk about their efforts to protect citizen's right to examine the records generated by all levels of government under the state's Public Records Act. Washington has one of the strongest open records in the nation, but in forty years since the act was passed, more than 500 exceptions have crept into the law with many cities, countries, agencies and interest groups pushing for more. What can be done to protect your right to know? WACOG President Toby Nixon, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, and News Tribune investigative reporter Sean Robinson will discuss.
Go to video>>
Editorial: Don't seal all juvenile-court records
The Seattle Times: April 21, 2013
THE Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to automatically seal preconviction court records of less-serious juvenile offenders. The bill, which has passed the House 97-0, did not meet the bill cutoff in the Senate but could still be revived. It is ill-advised and unconstitutional.
The Washington Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, says: “Justice in all cases shall be administered openly ...” The words, “in all cases,” mean what they say and there is a reason for them.
As Toby Nixon of the Washington Coalition for Open Government said in legislative hearings, it has been learned over the centuries that secret tribunals cannot be trusted. Nor can a system of justice be held accountable in aggregate; you have to see specific cases.
Editorial: Legislature racing past participation by public
The Spokesman Review: April 18, 2013
Open government is almost meaningless if the door is 300 miles away.
Each January, the Washington Legislature assembles in Olympia to do the people’s work; as best the senators and representatives know it.
For the next four months, Eastern Washington lawmakers must rely on their staffs, email, snail mail, telephone calls and occasional visits home to keep them in touch with constituents. But keeping up with fast-moving developments in the Capitol, let alone contributing to the discussion of major legislation, is nearly impossible for those constituents, even for addicts of TVW, the state television network that does an excellent job of broadcasting committee hearings and other Olympia activities.
Olympian calls for more legislative transparency
Washington Policy Center: April 16, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
Looks like editors at The Olympian decided to declare April 16 as "Legislative Transparency Day." The capital city newspaper ran two editorials today highlighting our recommendationsto improve the public's access to the legislative process.
The first editorial calls on lawmakers to provide the opportunity for Washingtonians from the far corners of the state to utilize remote testimony options:
When citizens want state legislators to hear their opinions, nothing beats coming to Olympia and testifying in person. When lawmakers sense the passion and force behind public testimony, gleaned from observing body language, it can impact their decision-making.
But when lawmakers schedule public hearings on short notice, traveling to Olympia poses a burden for some, especially those on the eastern part of our state, and for almost everyone except registered lobbyists
The Legislature could mitigate those issues and improve public access to government by employing modern teleconferencing.
Title-only bills skirt constitution
The Olympian: April 16, 2013
By: The Olympian Editorial Board
Among the bills still alive in this legislative session, seven deal with the important topics of education, health care, human services, natural resources and the ever-popular but head-scratching “State Government Act.” We would love to offer an opinion on each of them, but there’s a problem: We don’t know anything about them.
Virtual access to Capitol would benefit citizens
The Olympian: April 16, 2013
By: The Olympian Editorial Board
When citizens want state legislators to hear their opinions, nothing beats coming to Olympia and testifying in person. When lawmakers sense the passion and force behind public testimony, gleaned from observing body language, it can impact their decision-making.
Brian Sonntag inducted into "Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame"
Washington Policy Center: April 12, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
Former State Auditor Brian Sonntag has been inducted into the "Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame."
According to a press release by the National Freedom of Information Coalition:
Brian Sonntag, who retired earlier this year after serving five terms as the elected State Auditor in Washington state, has been selected for induction into Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame.
The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) jointly announced Sonntag’s selection as the 2013 inductee today. The formal induction ceremony will take place at Saturday’s luncheon during the 2013 FOI Summit, held this year at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans, La., May 17–18.
The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by SPJ and NFOIC. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their states.
Sonntag, the 13th individual chosen for the honor since the Hall’s inception in 2003, is the second inductee in a row from Washington and only the third elected official to be included.
Induction into the State Open Government Hall of Fame recognizes 'long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.' The award is intended to honor individuals—living or dead—whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level.
The 2012 inductee was Toby Nixon, President of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
It's Records and Information Management Month!
Washington Secretary of State: April 3, 2013
By: Brian Zylstra
When it comes to event themes, April is just full of them. According to one website, there are at least two dozen different themes, including National Garden Month (good reminder to mow your lawn and pull some weeds) and National Humor Month (Ha!).
But did you know that here in Washington and many other states, April is also Records and Information Management Month? Here is this year's official state proclamation, signed by Gov. Inslee.
RIM Month is designed to promote the professionals working in this field and to emphasize the importance of organizing and maintaining records in any format – paper, electronic, microfilm or magnetic.
Crime News From Inside Seattle PD
Seattle Journalism Commons: March 27, 2013
By: Patrick Fancher
Crime in the Emerald City may not pay, but it is forging a career for local reporter/blogger Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. The lifelong Seattle resident found his niche in journalism almost by accident, while writing for the alt-weekly paper The Stranger as an intern from North Seattle Community College.
"I still don't really know how I ended up on the crime beat," Spangenthal-Lee said in an e-mail interview. "The first few stories I wrote at The Stranger all happened to be cop or crime-related, and I started making contacts and figuring out the cops/court system through trial and error."
The 4-month internship led to a job covering the city's crime beat, and for years he gained valuable experience and established many solid contacts reporting at crime scenes. After parting ways with The Stranger, he wanted to continue crime reporting, but knew it would be difficult landing a position in a newsroom.
Washington's Troublesome Blank Bills
Tax Foundation: March 22, 2013
By: Elizabeth Malm
There's a quirky way to introduce legislation in the Washington State legislature and that's via something called a "title-only bill." A title-only bill is exactly what it sounds like -- a piece of legislation that has a vague title but no body. There are currently 26 title-only bills filed in the legislature, all introduced by Representative Ross Hunter (D-District 48), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Andy Hill (R-District 45), Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Title only bills use to circumvent state Constitution
Washington Policy Center: March 18, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
Not only are title only bills (essentially blank pieces of legislation) not the most transparent way to introduce changes to state law (or perhaps too translucent) but they are used by lawmakers to circumvent the state Constitution. This is why it is disappointing to see 26 title only bills (13 in the House by Rep. Hunter and 13 in the Senate by Sen. Hill) introduced today. Budget chairs typically introduce title only bills so they "don't get stuck" at the end of session.
Bill to block public records requests dies
Herald Net: March 16, 2013
By: Jerry Cornfield
OLYMPIA -- An alliance of government forces has failed to secure help from state lawmakers in dealing with hefty and costly public records requests.
A House bill allowing public agencies to use the courts to block requesters and to limit the time spent compiling records died when it did not come up for a vote by a Wednesday deadline.
Representatives of cities, counties, school districts and prosecuting attorney offices told lawmakers in January that some requests are intended to harass and intimidate employees. House Bill 1128 provided a path to getting a judge's permission not to fill those.
Handling Vague & Complex Public Records Requests:
Developing Your Plan of Attack
The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC): March 2013
By: Sara Di Vittorio & Denise Vaughan
Public records requests run the gamut from the simple request for a copy of a police report to the complex request for any and all emails sent or received by an individual with no timeframe limitation. While it may be easy to wrap your mind around the search for records responsive to those easy requests, it can be quite daunting to face a seemingly limitless request. This article focuses on strategies for dealing with seemingly impossible requests that are either too vague or too complex to make responding a simple process.Read More>>
Shining a light on 'public' in public records
Yakima Herald: March 14, 2013
This week is Sunshine Week, which fittingly with the season’s longer stretches of daylight is about shining a light on what the government does and why. The effort started in 2002 as a way to foster a discussion about the need for open government — especially the public’s access to government records. The American Society of News Editors took the lead in this initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.
Newspapers are involved in Sunshine Week, as are participants from broadcast and online journalism. But it doesn’t stop there. Civic groups, libraries, nonprofits and schools all have scheduled events that foster a discussion about the need for open government.
Online public records access a mixed bag
Columbia Basin Herald: March 13, 2013
By: Tiffany Sukola
Living in a digital age has its benefits.
The internet puts the information a user wants virtually at their fingertips. People have immediate access to scores from the latest game, the stock market and the news, among a myriad of other information available on the web.
But what about public records? Can the average citizen pull up minutes from the latest city council meeting just as easily as they could their local weather?
The answer to that question, unfortunately, depends, said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. While federal and state agencies often provide access to digital records on their websites, Nixon said smaller local agencies might not offer that convenience.
Government operates best in the light of day
The News Tribune: March 13, 2013
This week is Sunshine Week, when newspapers and civic watchdogs remind public officials that their paramount duty is to the citizens, not to their own self-interest. That duty is best carried out openly and transparently, not hidden behind closed doors and secret documents.
That reminder is badly needed, if action in the Legislature is any indication.
Proposed bills that would have made state and local government more transparent have already died. Now the Washington Coalition for Open Government is just playing defense against several bills designed to obstruct the public’s right to know.
Defend public records law
HeraldNet: March 12, 2013
You monkey with language, and a bill in the Legislature quickly betrays its stated mission. (Beware the intersection of marketing and public policy.) Lipstick on a goat is still a goat. That's the case with HB 1128, a bill dressed in pro-public-records language that will simply obstruct access to public records.
The irony? This marks the beginning of National Sunshine Week, a time to noodle and celebrate access to public information.
Sunshine week celebrates Washington's right to open public records
The Bellingham Herald: March 12, 2013
By: Peggy Watt
Nearly fifty years ago a middle-school student and her friends set a major free speech case into motion by wearing a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam war.
They subsequently protested their suspension from school. And eventually won: In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker vs. Des Moines School District that neither "students or teachers shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Handling Vague & Complex Public Records Requests: Developing Your Plan of Attack
MR&SC: March 2013
By: Sarah Di Vittorio and Denise Vaughan
Public records requests run the gamut from the simple request for a copy of a police report to the complex request for any and all emails sent or received by an individual with no timeframe limitation. While it may be easy to wrap your mind around the search for records responsive to those easy requests, it can be quite daunting to face a seemingly limitless request. This article focuses on strategies for dealing with seemingly impossible requests that are either too vague or too complex to make responding a simple process.
We believe in open government in all contexts
The News Tribune: March 10, 2013
By: Karen Peterson
Today is a holiday as patriotic as the Fourth of July. It is Sunshine Sunday and the beginning of Sunshine Week, both of which promote open government.
The American Society of News Editors, of which I’m a member, helped launch Sunshine Week in 2005. “Though created by journalists,” the ASNE website states, “Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.”
Questioning what our government is doing and why has led The News Tribune to some interesting places in recent weeks.
Reporter Sean Robinson asked those questions as he conceived of his story on today’s front page. He knew the state had cut funding for mental health treatment. He knew people with mental illnesses had committed sensational crimes in our community over the past year.
Courts, in secret
The Wenatchee World: March 9, 2013
By: Editorial Board
Washington is a state where open government is the norm, and open public records a fundamental fixture in law. This is, or should be, especially true in the court system, where open justice is a constitutional requirement.
But last week the state House voted to require a large share of our justice system to operate in complete secrecy, out of the public eye, closed to scrutiny, the results of legal process kept beyond an impenetrable barrier.
Seattle Police blogger Jonah Spangenthal-Lee honored by Coalition for Open Government
The Seattle Times: March 9, 2013
By: Jonathan Martin
Jonah Spangethal-Lee, the Seattle Police Department’s blogger-in-residence, is being honored at Saturday’s Washington Coalition for Open Government convention for his witty pursuit of government transparency.
A former crime journalist, Spangenthal-Lee energized the SPD blog with posts such as “Marijwhatnow,” the Seattle Police’s guide to now-legal marijuana. The Coalition is applauding his approach, which he summed up this way: "If there's information we can give to anyone, we should give it to everyone."
Sun rising in House Rules Committee?
Washington Policy Center: March 9, 2013
By: Jason Mercier
Tomorrow (March 10) marks the beginning of National Sunshine Week - a time dedicated to celebrating the importance of the people's right to know and the need for strong open government laws. Judging from rumors in the House Rules Committee, the sun may continue to shine bright on Washington's landmark public records law. The word is Speaker Chopp has placed a leadership hold on HB 1128 (Regarding local agencies' responses to public records requests), keeping the bill from going to the House floor before Wednesday's cutoff date (March 13). HB 1128 was sent to the Rules Committee nearly a month ago on February 12.
House votes to seal most juvenile court files
The Olympian: March 8, 2013
By: Jimmy Lovaas
The state House moved Wednesday to largely reverse a 36-year-old law making juvenile court files public, drawing fire from open records advocates.
The proposal, which passed the House unanimously and now heads to the Senate for consideration, would require most juvenile offender records to be sealed. The only exception would be for youths found guilty of serious violent offenses, some sex offenses and arson.
Under current law, offenders can petition a court to have their record sealed, but only under certain circumstances.
Op-ed: Don't let local governments gut the Public Records Act
Special to The Seattle Times: March 7, 2013
By: Katherine George
FOR 40 years, Washington's Public Records Act has been a window for anyone to see what's going on in state, county and city governments, schools and other local agencies. As a recent example, this landmark law helped The Seattle Times uncover troubles leading to Rob Holland's resignation from the Port of Seattle Commission.
The bad news is: Our local governments are fighting hard to weaken the act. And some state legislators are championing the cause of scaling back the public's right to know.
Do you want to know how your tax money is spent, how well a program is working, or whether an elected official is meeting your expectations? Records can tell stories that you will never hear from news releases.
Keeping access to public records
Columbia Basin Herald: March 1, 2013
By: Editorial Board
Americans have many freedoms that are the envy of other countries, including freedom of speech, religion, the press, equal justice and the right to bear arms.
Another right Americans have is access to public records generated by state, county and federal government agencies. Requesting and receiving public records help keeps people informed and provides checks and balances for the government.
It is why we wanted to make you aware of the following three pieces of proposed legislation being considered by state legislators.