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Monday, September 29, 2008

Public Records Show ... School District Paid Nearly $200,000 in Censorship Case

The (Everett) Herald writes this fabulous story about how the Everett School District spent nearly $200,000 in legal fees to censor a student newspaper critical of the District. The District allegedly put the student paper's teacher-advisor under surveillance.

How did the Herald learn of the legal fees and many of the facts surrounding this? You guessed it: public records. And the Herald had to hire an attorney to get them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Legislator Emails

This piece from the National Council of State Legislatures discusses the issue of whether state legislators' emails are disclosable public records.

Kitsap Sun Files Suit Over Town of Residence Records

The Kitsap Sun newspaper filed suit to intervene in a lawsuit brought by public employees to prevent the Sun from obtaining the town of residence of those employees. Not the residential address; the town of residence. The Kitsap Sun ran this story about it.

Allied Law Group represents the Kitsap Sun in this case so we will not be commenting on it on og-blog.

Vice President Ordered to Retain Records

The Washington Post reports that a federal court has ordered Vice President Dick Cheney to retain his papers so there will be some records to turn over to National Archives.

As we have said before, what good are open-government laws if public records are destroyed before they can be requested?

If you consider yourself left-of-center and are cheering that Republican Dick Cheney was ordered to retain his records before he could destroy them, then consider the many Washington state and local governments, run almost exclusively by Democrats, which routinely destroy all their email after a few days. The same principle--what good are open-government laws if public records are destroyed before they can be requested?--applies to governments run by people other than Dick Cheney.

Open-government laws are a check on whomever is in power, and officials of both political parties violate these laws when they are in power.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Executive Session Taping Bill--Compromise?

This Tri-City Herald story discusses the views of Attorney General Rob McKenna and his challenger, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, on a possible compromise on the executive session taping bill. The compromise would make the taping bill apply only to local governments and state boards which the State Auditor has identified as having violated the open meetings law. Ladenburg seems to want even more "compromise" (that is, fewer controls on government).

We think it's too much of a compromise. But we'll wait to see what is introduced in the 2009 legislative session.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is Sarah Palin Trying to Hide Public Records?

The Seattle Times runs this story from the Anchorage Daily News about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's apparent use of "private" email accounts to conduct state business.

Speaking of Sarah Palin, could Tina Fey have done a more dead-on imitation of her on Saturday Night Live?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mason County Settles Public Records Suit for $175,000

The Olympian reports that a non-lawyer representing himself obtained a $175,000 settlement against Mason County in a Public Records Act case.

The county says it didn't do anything "egregious." That's odd, given that this is one of the largest Public Records Act settlements in history.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bremerton School District Less Than Forthcoming

The Kitsap Sun reports on the way the Bremerton School District is handling a public records request from the newspaper. Same ol', same ol'.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Candidate Open-Gov't Questionaire Results

Here are the results of the Washington Coalition for Open Government's question to candidates about open-government issues and many of the candidate's responses.

Tri-City Herald Editoiral on $230,000 Fine for Town of 440

The Tri-City Herald writes this editorial about the Public Records Act penalty of almost $230,000 levied against the tiny town of Mesa, population 440.

Oh, but don't cry for Mesa: they deserved it.

Too bad a town with an annual budget of under $350,000 must pay a fine of $230,000--but that's what happens when you blatantly break the law and then carry on for years in court (fueled by taxpayer money paying the city's legal fees). The town's officials decided to gamble (with taxpayer money) and lost. Should have thought about that when you started breaking the law.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Public Records Show ... Western State Director Forced Out

The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that the director of Western State hospital was forced to resign and the state was less than truthful in saying otherwise. How do we know?

"State social service leaders forced the chief executive of Western State Hospital to resign Aug. 8 and gave him no explanation for the decision, according to public records obtained by The News Tribune. ...

"The records, including e-mails from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office and the Department of Social and Health Services, undercut earlier public statements from state leaders that implied Phillips resigned willingly."

Monday, September 1, 2008

UPDATED: Neener Neener Backfires

The Olympian reports on a giant public records request by anti-open-government Thurston County Commissioner Diane Oberquell. If she was trying to make a point, it backfired when the Attorney General's Office dutifully and efficiently fulfilled the request. Be sure and read the comments to this story. Ouch.

For past hijinks from Oberquell see this post, which was the most-read og-blog post ever.

UPDATE: The Olympian writes this brutal editorial on Oberquell's passive-aggressive tantrum. Here's a snippet:

"Thurston County Commissioner Diane Oberquell has submitted two voluminous public records requests to state agencies out of pure spite. It's vindictiveness at its worst and as a public official, Oberquell should know better. She has embarrassed herself in her final days in office and her retaliatory requests for public records are yet another indication that at 20 years, she has stayed in office too long.

"Her petulant behavior has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Yet when asked for an explanation for her actions, Oberquell declined to comment, referring questions to her attorney.

"That speaks volumes."