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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TNT Editorial: Ruling Could Be "Disaster for Open Government"

This Tacoma News-Tribune editorial discusses the deleted email case of BIAW v. Pierce County Auditor's Office.

"The county won a round last month when Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch dismissed the BIAW’s lawsuit, which claimed that the [Pierce County] auditor’s office had violated the state’s Public Records Act by deleting e-mails. The county argued the e-mails in question were never public records. Hirsch has agreed to reconsider the ruling. What concerns us is the possibility that the judge may have blown a gaping hole in the public records law. The BIAW, represented by Greg Overstreet, formerly an open-government expert for state Attorney General Rob McKenna, contends Hirsch did just that – because she apparently ruled that the e-mails were not public records because they had not been 'retained.' By that standard, any public document or e-mail would cease to be a public record the moment it was destroyed or deleted. If that is indeed the import of Hirsch’s ruling, it would be disaster for open government."

Since Allied Law Group represents the requestor in this case, we will refrain from detailed comments until after a decision.