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Monday, June 30, 2008

Public Records Show ... Company Pleaded With Governor For Help

This investigative journalism piece from the Tri-City Herald describes--based on emails provided under the Public Records Act--how a uranium enrichment company begged Gov. Gregoire to help with the project that would have kept hundreds of jobs in the Tri-Cities area. The company alleges the Governor did not help.

Deleted Emails in Texas

This story describes how all the laws in the world don't prevent some local governments in Texas from automatically deleting emails that are supposed to be kept for months or years. This happens even in Texas where the penalty for illegally destroying public records is jail time.

Open Gov't Key Issue in Court of Appeal Race

This story from the Sequim Gazette describes a debate between Court of Appeals candidates Judge Robin Hunt and Attorney General Open Government Ombudsman Tim Ford. Open government seems to be the central issue in the race.

Who said open government was a wonkish issue that never mattered in real elections?

Kitsap Sun Editorial on State Auditor Performance Audit on Public Records

This editorial from the Kitsap Sun notes that Kitsap County did pretty well in the State Auditor's performance audit on public records.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grays Harbor Open Gov't Forum

This story from the (Aberdeen) Daily World describes an open-government forum held in Grays Harbor County. It has a good description of the issues and various view points on the topic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Whatcom County Puts Some Records Online

Here's a piece from Sam Taylor at the Bellingham Herald on the Whatcom County Auditor's decision to put some routine records online.

Putting records online is great for the public and cuts down on the number of public records requests, something agencies always say they wished would happen.

Years from now we will wonder why it took paper requests for paper records, which resulted in paper court filings to get paper court orders requiring disclosure ... of paper records.

Union Contracts to Prevent Disclosure

Here is an interesting piece from State Sunshine and Open Records about a Wisconsin case in which a public employees' union entered into an agreement with the state requiring the withholding of certain information.

Washington agencies try this on occasion too but it's pretty clear that a contract cannot override a statute. Imagine the mischief if it could--a contract not to pay taxes, a contract to drink and drive, etc.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yakima Herald-Republic Sues County for $2 Million Records

The Yakima Herald-Republic filed suit to obtain billing records in a murder case where Yakima County has spent $2 million of tax money on the defense. Here is the story.

AG's Open-Gov't Ombudsman Running for Court of Appeals

This article from the Peninsula Daily News describes a judicial candidates' forum between Court of Appeals judge Robin Hunt and her challenger, AG Open Government Ombudsman Tim Ford.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on AG's Brief on Prohibiting Inmates From Requesting Public Records

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this editorial on Attorney General Rob McKenna's recent friend-of-the-court brief which argues that inmates should not be allowed to request public records.

Public Records Show ... Al Gore's Home Uses the Energy of 232 Average U.S. Homes

By making a public records request to the public utility serving former Vice President Al Gore's home, a Tennessee advocacy group found out that the "green" Mr. Gore uses the energy of 232 average-sized U.S. homes.

More on State Auditor's Public Record Performance Audits

The Olympian reports on a hearing Thurston County held to address the findings about it in the State Auditor's Public Records Performance Audit.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tacoma News-Tribune Editorial on AG No-Prisoners Brief

The Tacoma News-Tribune writes this editorial on Attorney General Rob McKenna's argument to the Court of Appeals that inmates should be prohibited from making public records requests.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Alleged Open Meetings Violation Subject of Recall Petition

The Peninsula Gateway reports that a citizen alleging a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act has filed a recall petition against a commissioner of the Key Peninsula Fire Department (Pierce County Fire District No. 16).

Attorneys fees, a penalty, and invalidating the actions illegally taken in a closed meeting are not the only consequences of an Open Public Meetings Act violation. Recall is also possible.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Attorney General Files Brief Arguing Felons Don't Have Right to Public Records

This (Everett) Herald story carries an Associated Press story about Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna's brief arguing that felons have no right to request public records.

Monday, June 9, 2008

City of Seattle Says It Will Improve Its Public Records Process

This Seattle Times editorial describes the City of Seattle's announcement that it will take steps to improve its public records performance. The improvements are aimed at remedying many of the problems identified by the State Auditor's Office in a recent performance audit.

A few thoughts. First, it looks like performance audits work. Second, the performance audit's main conclusion is that an agency's internal culture has a tremendous impact on its open government performance; it took the City of Seattle years to devolve into a culture of secrecy and it will take a long time to change. Finally, we will give the City the benefit of the doubt with its stated intention to improve--but will look at evidence to see if it's happening.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pierce County (!) Creates Ombudsman Post

Pierce County--not exactly known for its open government--announced it will create a public records ombudsman post similar apparently to the Attorney General's.

Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney pushed the reform and is being honored with a "Key Award" from the Washington Coalition for Open Government. Congratulations.

Both Obama and McCain Support Searchable Spending Database

The Washington Policy Center notes that both presumptive presidential candidates support a robust searchable database of federal spending. This makes sense for any candidate of "change," as both assert they are.

Public Record Show ... School Received Up to 30 Warnings About Teacher Sex Abuser

Public records obtained by The Seattle Times for this story indicate that the Seattle School District received as many as 30 different warnings that a teacher was acting sexually inappropriately with young students. (The District says it received 5 warnings.) The District admitted liability and settled a civil law suit for $3 million.

Some teachers in another case actually argued that the public has no legitimate interest in obtaining the release of public records with the names of teachers accused of sexual misconduct. No legitimate public interest. Think about that.

Agency Kudos

This editorial from The Olympian describes the good work of a state agency, the Department of General Administration, after a previous performance audit showed some problems. The agency did well in the public records performance audit.

The media and (og-blog) don't just report agency misdeeds.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kitsap County Pays $125,000 to Settle Public Records Case

This Kitsap Sun story describes Kitsap County's payment of $125,000 to settle an inmate's public records case.

Apparently the County said the record didn't exist but later found it. Then the County did the honorable thing: admitted it. Og-blog compliments government agencies whenever possible.

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Open Meetings, Center for Justice, and Sunnyside

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this editorial, which was sparked by the City of Sunnyside's apparent decision in an executive session to hire a new city manager. The editorial describes the importance of open meetings and mentions the Center for Justice's recent open meetings enforcement cases.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

NJ Governor's Email Ordered Disclosed

A governor's attempt to claim executive privilege fails.