Friday, March 28, 2008
We still can't believe something this sensible passed the Legislature.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This is good because some might have been considering litigation to achieve the same result. Now the District won't need to pay attorneys fees and penalties--and the public can attend meetings as the law requires.
UPDATE: The Kitsap Sun writes this editorial about the school district's decision to follow the law.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
"It’s becoming a trend. When local governments get caught violating open-government laws, the typical reaction goes something like this: 'Oh, but we’re not like that anymore. We’ve corrected all the problems. Nothing to worry your little heart about.'
"Fine. Prove it. Schedule a refresher course. Bring in outside experts to conduct a workshop for elected officials."
The story quotes Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard: "I completely understand the concerns of the employees," she said. "But there's noting in the statute that gave the court the authority to do that. There's not a right to stop people from asking for public records in the future."
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The story quotes Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This searchable database will do more than many people realize to shine the light of public scrutiny on spending abuses. It's probably good that few realize the power of this new law or the Legislature never would have passed it.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"My mayor and council have to decide -- how many police officers is that worth? ... As a lawyer, I can't look the mayor in the face and say, 'Make do with less police officers.'"
The piece goes on to describe the reaction of another panelist, Lynn Kessler:
"State House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, showed great restraint in just mentioning in passing that there is probably something other than police or firefighters in the city's $926 million budget that might be a better target for a cut."
You just can't make this stuff up.
A lawyer who represents government agencies and usually is on the side resisting disclosure let me know that his client (the City of Federal) and the newspaper were on the same side, urging disclosure. Duly noted, Ramsey. Thank you.
Says The Daily News:
"The legal action also may serve to educate members of government bodies on their obligations under the law governing executive sessions. Although the law is fairly straightforward, the number of reported violations in the state - 460 between Jan. 1, 2004, and Nov. 13, 2007, according to Overstreet - suggest some misunderstanding of its requirements.
"The Daily News believes the port should be held accountable for this action and that's why the newspaper has joined a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Spokane-based public interest group Center for Justice. The suit seeks $100 fines from each of the two commissioners, payment of the plaintiff's legal fees and a court injunction prohibiting future violations of the Open Meetings Act."
"In this week of emphasis on open and transparent government, elected officials across the state have been put on notice that they will be held accountable for their violations of the Open Public Meetings law."
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"We believe the port commissioners clearly acted illegally with this back-room appointment. ... If they had simply acknowledged their mistake it would be easier to understand their error and expect such things not to happen again. However, the commissioners and their legal counsel have made it clear they do not understand or respect open meetings laws. So, we can't be assured they will act appropriately in the future."
Note: Allied Law Group represents The Daily News and Center for Justice in the Port of Longview case so we will not comment on it in og-blog.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The (Centralia) Chronicle writes this editorial endorsing Justice Charles Johnson for re-election to the Supreme Court. It cites Justice Johnson's many, many good open-government rulings.
Full Disclosure: Justice Johnson's campaign treasurer is Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet.
Note the comments in the story from the publisher of the paper.
Deterrence. That's why.
Note: Allied Law Group represents the Center for Justice in the case so we will not comment on it too much on og-blog.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Rich Roesler of the Spokesman-Review figured out the hint and wrote about it.
Sunshine Week is a national week of events and news stories highlighting the importance of open-government issues. This year Sunshine Week is March 16-22. It's a big deal.
Be looking for lots of news stories and editorials in Washington newspapers during Sunshine Week.
There is some really big news coming. You'll just have to stay tuned to see what it is. Here's a hint: CFJ OGAP.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
To top it off, the SVH notes that an open-government initiative might be in the works to restore the law to its past strength. And to remind elected officials for whom they work.
- 97% of the time records are provided instead of withheld
- records are provided in an average of two weeks
These numbers make sense given that the vast majority of requests are for routine police reports. But when the requestor is a political opponent or the records show misconduct, don't expect a two-week turn around 97% of the time. Expect the agency to delay and attempt to confuse and then, if pushed, say "If you want the records, you'll need to sue us. Good luck with that."
During Sunshine Week, most newspapers run editorials, guest columns, and stories about open government. There will be so many of them to post on og-blog. We will put them up under the heading "Sunshine Week: ...." so you can find them in the archives column at the right easily.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Writes the S-R: "If not, perhaps they could at least explain what they have to hide."
Local governments won't record their executive sessions and they won't lift a finger to explain what the have to hide.
After all, who's going to sue them for an Open Public Meetings Act violation? That never happens ...
Taxpayers who would be asked to fund the project might like to know what the two partners are saying about each other.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The email war is getting really heated in Missouri. Long story short: the Republican Governor deleted a bunch of emails, the Democratic Attorney General (who is running against the Republican Governor) is investigating whether any laws were broken, and now the Republican Governor has requested all the Democratic AG's emails. Read all about it.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Very interesting. You will notice bi-partisanship on the good list and the bad list.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
"On the heels of a scalding state audit of the (port), there can be no mistaking the bottom line: Elected officials and top staff people at ports, fire districts, city halls and other governments should think long and hard about keeping secrets from the taxpayers, voters and residents. Instead, engage them.
"And there’s this implicit message from state Auditor Brian Sonntag to citizens: When secrecy is a problem, fight back."
The editorial then describes how another port in the area passed a tax increase without public input but then the voters rose up and repealed it--and un-elected a port commissioner in the process.
Check og-blog tomorrow to see if the Earth has stopped rotating. Some local government officials and their attorneys claim that taking steps like the school board did here will be the end of civilization. We'll keep you posted.
"'This is basically a case of an allegation of inappropriate conduct by public officials,' said David Zeeck, executive editor of The News Tribune. 'When the taxpayers spend money to investigate, I think they’re entitled to see the results – good or bad.'"
Monday, March 10, 2008
Ford is running against incumbent Robin Hunt. Ford cites Judge Hunt's open-government rulings as a major reason for his challenge.
We know Tim Ford. He is extremely well qualified.
More information on Tim Ford's race is at www.TimFord2008.com.
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Tri-City Herald editorializes about open court records in a case of particular interest in their area. In the process they describe why open courts are important.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
"[W]e'll be particularly interested in where legislative candidates vying for office this fall stand on openness in government in general and taped executive sessions in particular. ...
"Next time around we would expect strong support from those in our area city and county governments when they're apprised of the fact that taping can actually be in their best interests."
Politicians have grown accustomed to going along with anti-openness special interests in Olympia and then coming home to their their local papers and expecting glowing endorsements. This won't work anymore. The hysterical opposition to the taping bill was so far-fetched that it set off some very reasonable people.
Monday, March 3, 2008
"The citizens' window into local government workings has been sliding steadily shut.
All over the windowpanes are the fingerprints of a majority of the state's Supreme Court justices, state lawmakers doing favors for their local-government lobbyist pals and the governor.
"Time to prop that window back open with a heavy stick of a voter initiative."
You will be hearing more about an initiative in the coming months.
P.S. The column quotes Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Describing the fight for open government as a campaign, the TNT writes:
"Newspapers such as The News Tribune are that campaign’s foot soldiers. No other institution knocks on government doors day after day, requesting public records, attending public meetings and pushing elected officials toward the light.
"Advancing the cause of open government is a value, not a business model.
"Stories about newspapers prying open sealed records or exposing illegal meetings rarely cause papers to fly off the racks.
"But this newspaper bird-dogs public agencies all the same because something important is at stake. Access to public records and meetings, and exposure of the private machinations of officialdom, are essential to an informed and engaged community. The News Tribune is the public’s eyes and ears; we are dedicated to providing information that will allow citizens to retain sovereignty over their government."
Yep. That's what's at stake.