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Friday, August 29, 2008

Public Records Show ... Seattle Spent $2,900,000 on Sonics Legal Fees

After the P-I made a public records request, the City of Seattle disclosed that they spent $2,900,000 on legal fees in their fight to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The City settled with the Sonics for what many called the worst settlement in history.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Indiana Courts Apply Public Records Act to Themselves

The Indiana Supreme Court held that their state's version of the Public Records Act applies to the courts.

This story was sent by a regularly reader who works for the Axis Law Group.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

$228,905 Public Records Penalty Against Town of 440

The City of Mesa played games for years with a public records requestor and now must pay $228,905 in penalties to the requestor. (The requestor's attorneys fees are not included; that will be even more.) The City has a population of 440 and an annual budget of $344,808.

The City could have followed the law or it could have settled early on. But aggressively fighting the requestor (with the City's taxpayer-funded attorneys) seemed like a better idea.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Injured Bicyclist Sues State to Get Bike Accident Data

The P-I reports that an injured bicyclist has sued the Washington State Patrol to obtain information about how many others have been injured on the same bridge.

Monday, August 18, 2008

NJ Governor Tries to Use Executive Privilege to Shield Emails

The Governor of New Jersey is trying to use executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of emails about some very interesting things.

Tip of the hat to a regular og-blog reader (who we're normally suing) for sending us this story.

Public Records Show ... School District Spent $140,000 on Student Newspaper Investigation

The (Everett) Herald reports: "The Everett School District has spent more than $140,000 investigating an underground high school newspaper and the teacher who disobeyed orders in support of the student journalists." The District allegedly put the teacher under surveillance.

How do we know that $140,000 was diverted from education to pay lawyers to defend an Orwellian school district? You guessed it: "according to heavily redacted billing records provided to The Herald under a public records request."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Open Gov't Violation Grounds For Recall

The P-I reports that the Washington State Supreme Court held today that a recall petition could go forward against a Port of Seattle commissioner because she acted (to increase the pay of the port director) outside of a public meeting.

The port commissioner announced she won't run for re-election.

Since the $100 penalty doesn't seem to deter violations, maybe recall will.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Increase in Open Gov't Blogging

This is interesting: the State Sunshine and Open Records blog writes about the significant increase in open-government blogs.

Why the increase in open-government blogs? We have three thoughts. First, with all the great hypocrisy going on across the nation with government officials claiming to be for "open government" but then blatantly violating the law by withholding records, there is so much good stuff to blog about. Second, so many of the examples of information they are trying to hide are things that important to lots of everyday people (abuse of kids, stealing tax money, political favoritism, etc.). Third, blogging software is so easy to use that our dog could do it. (We could call it "dog-blog.")

Settlement Documents Should Be Open Court Records

This interesting article comes from a newspaper in South Carolina and describes the issue of public access to settlement documents in cases involving public safety. A very good discussion of the issue.

Washington recently adopted a court rule significantly increasing public access to court records.

Jolene Unsoeld Awarded James Madison Award

The Washington Coalition for Open Government will award its James Madison Award for lifetime work protecting open government to former Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld. She helped draft and pass the 1972 initiative creating the (then-named) Public Disclosure Act.

"John Hughes Leaves World for History"

A very catchy headline from David Postman. It describes John Hughes leaving the (Aberdeen) Daily World to become a historian for the Secretary of State.

Hughes is a real open-government champion. He is on the Sunshine Committee. And he's just a great guy. We wish him well.

We highly recommend his book on Grays Harbor history called On the Harbor, From Black Friday to Nirvana. It's less of a history book and more of a series of fascinating stories.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tri-City Herald Editorial on John Does 1-11

The Tri-City Herald weighs in on the horrible John Does 1-11 case. Says the Herald:

"The public has a right to know if the people charged with keeping our children safe are doing the job. Keeping their behavior secret is of primary importance to sexual predators. Once their true nature is known, they're finished and they know it. But now the state Supreme Court made it easier for them to hide."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympian Editorial on John Does 1-11

The Olympian writes this thoughtful editorial on the John Does 1-11 case. Says The Olympian:

"The high court ruling will make it next to impossible for someone outside the school district to determine if allegations are taken seriously, or swept under the rug. Just because an allegation isn't substantiated doesn't mean wrongdoing didn't occur."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Best Explanation of Why John Does 1-11 Will Hurt Kids

A specialty blog, the Seattle Public Schools Examiner, lays out why the John Does 1-11 ruling will give school districts an incentive to sweep allegations of teacher/student sexual misconduct under the rug. That's right: an incentive. Read why.

(Longview) Daily News Editorial on John Does 1-11 Case

The (Longview) Daily News adds its voice to growing chorus of those deeply troubled by the state Supreme Court's ruling in the John Does 1-11 case.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Public Records Show ... Police Officer Using City Computer for Online Dating

The Anacortes American has this story about a police officer allegedly using his city computer for online dating, visiting some "racy" web sites, etc.

How could the newspaper verify this and run the story? "According to a city investigative report received after a freedom of information request ...."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Brutal TNT Editorial on John Does 1-11 Case

"Breathtakingly disconnected from reality" is how this Tacoma News-Tribune editorial describes the state Supreme Court's recent John Does 1-11 decision. That case allowed the non-disclosure of teacher identities in some student-teacher sexual misconduct investigations.

The title of the editorial says it all: "Court to public: Butt out of student abuse probes."

Seattle P-I Editorial on John Does 1-11 Case

Here is the P-I's editorial on the topic.

Seattle Times Does Not Endorse Justice Fairhurst


The Seattle Times does NOT endorse the incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, instead endorsing her challenger, Michael Bond. The main reason: Justice Fairhurst seems to side nearly every single time with government, especially on open-government matters.

Every other newspaper, however, has endorsed Justice Fairhurst.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How the Everett School District Tries to Operate in Secret

This story from the (Everett) Herald details how the Everett School District does all it can to prevent people from knowing what it is doing. The story centers on the District's action after a scandal arose over alleged secret videotaping of a teacher.

As you read this, keep asking yourself, "These people supposedly work for the public, with the mission of educating kids?"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Power of OPM

This editorial from The Olympian opines that agencies like the Port of Olympia should cut their legal bill loses and simply turn over public records when a court says so, instead of appealing and then losing again and running up the bills even higher.

The Olympian is right, but why would a government agency do something it doesn't want to do when it has "free" tax money to spend trying to get lucky in a higher court? It's OPM: "Other People's Money" so why care?

A solution would be for the Public Records Act to do what the Open Public Meetings Act does: impose personal liability. Then it's not OPM but MOM: "My Own Money." It's weird how decision making changes when it's MOM.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Blow to Open Government: Bellevue John Does 1-11

The Washington State Supreme Court issued its Bellevue John Does 1-11 ruling.

Here is the majority opinion and the dissent.

Here is a Seattle Times story on the decision.