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Friday, January 18, 2008

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Bill to Prevent Agencies From Suing Requestors

The Spokesman-Review editorializes (registration required) on Rep. Brendan Williams' bill (HB 2839) to prevent agencies from suing public records requestors.

This editorial compares Washington state and local governments suing requestors to intimidation against citizens in the Soviet Union:

"The Inland Northwest is home to more than 20,000 men and women who once lived in the former Soviet Union. Many came to escape religious persecution. They lived under governments that often ruled by intimidation. Step out of line and face consequences in your job, your family, your well-being. Some people, especially those active in underground religious organizations, knew the government was keeping extensive files on their activities.

"Then these former residents of the Soviet Union moved to America, the land of freedom, where most government files belong to the people, not to elected leaders or the agencies that maintain public records. Washington state's Public Records Act makes it clear that 'the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them … the people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.'

"It all sounds great – on public paper. But a form of intimidation has arisen in recent years concerning the Public Records Act. While the majority of record requests are quickly fulfilled, some get stalled. One of the stall tactics? Sue the person or organization seeking the record. This is as potentially corrosive to freedom as some of the intimidation tactics once employed in the Soviet Union."

The editorial then goes on to describe HB 2839.