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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seattle Puts Knowingly Illegal Confidentiality Clause in Civil Rights Settlement

The City of Seattle settled a federal civil rights case in which an African American was severely beaten by the Seattle Police Department. The Seattle Times story is here. Secrecy, or attempted secrecy, is part of this story. It tells you a lot about the "sunshine" culture at the City of Seattle.

The victim's attorney and the city wanted to keep the amount of the settlement secret--why would the public need to know how much of their money was being spent to settle civil rights cases anyway? Those pesky busybodies just want to get their noses in "private" matters.

The victim and the city knew the settlement agreement was a public record, but put a confidentiality clause into the settlement agreement anyway. But here's the kicker: City Attorney Tom Carr initially cited the (knowingly illegal) confidentiality clause as a reason to withhold the amount of the settlement. The city relented (and followed the law) only after the Seattle Times made a public records request.

This guy is the chair of the Sunshine Committee?