Saturday, May 31, 2008
While open-government laws like the Public Records Act, Open Public Meetings Act, and access to court records are the most common topic of og-blog, the State Auditor's publication of audit findings is another important open-government measure. The State Auditors Office often shines the light on our government when no one else can.
Now the voters in the South Kitsap School District know where their money went.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The AP describes the Center as "Washington's newest sheriffs of 'sunshine.'"
Note: Allied Law Group represents the Center on these cases.
This story from The Olympian describes the retirement of a fabulous human being, Thurston County District Court judge Kip Stilz. He has worked on open-government and especially open courts issues for years. And he is one of those people in a community who everyone genuinely likes and respects.
UPDATED: Here is an editorial from The Olympian on Judge Stilz's retirement.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Note: Allied Law Group represented the Center for Justice. This was one of five Open Public Meetings Act cases filed by the Center on March 17, 2008 during Sunshine Week.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Democratic House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler says she won't "now or ever" endorse Democratic Attorney General candidate John Ladenburg. Why? The reason Kessler describes in this story from The (Aberdeen) Daily World is Ladenburg's opposition to the open-meetings taping bill Kessler worked on with incumbent--Republican--Attorney General Rob McKenna.
"[Kessler] is concerned that Ladenburg has been outspoken about legislation she and McKenna championed this year to force local governments to record their executive sessions. The recordings would only be provided to a judge if questions arise that the government bodies are violating the state’s open public meetings law.
"Kessler said 'out of respect to the Democrats,' she has no plans to endorse McKenna, 'but I can’t see a scenario where I endorse Ladenburg now or ever. Except for defending my bill, I think this race is going to see me silent.'"
This open-government thing is an amazing political issue. When a legislative majority leader doesn't endorse an Attorney General candidate from the same party over something, you should take note of what that something is.
UPDATE: The Tri-City Herald's political reporter blogs about this here. Sound Politics has this.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
How true. Why do some Republicans in eastern Washington join some Democrats in western Washington in opposing open government? Because they run things in their respective parts of the state. Sometimes they don't want the public nosing around the governments they run.
As with all general rules, there are specific exceptions to the ins-versus-outs principle. But it works much of the time.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Holy smokes. You should read this. It describes individual agencies' performance but also discusses trends, statistics, and patterns.
Quite a few journalists read og-blog. We humbly suggest to our media readers that this audit report is chock full of news stories. The agencies audited are all over state so there's plenty of local interest for a newspaper in just about every corner of the state.
UPDATES: Chris Mulick of the Tri-City Herald writes this about the performance audit report. The Seattle Times has this piece. The Olympian has this piece.
McKenna supported the bill to require the recording of executive sessions. Ladenburg doesn't. Here's a portion of a story from The (Vancouver) Columbian:
"[Ladenburg] parts ways with McKenna on one issue the incumbent championed in the 2008 session — requiring local governments to tape their executive sessions to provide backup evidence if they are accused of violating the state’s open public meetings law. The bill, hotly opposed by many legislators from both parties, failed to pass, and Ladenburg said it 'would not be a priority for me.' For one thing, he said, it would be expensive to implement, because a simple tape recorder cannot distinguish among voices. 'The superior courts tried it, but it didn’t work,' he said. 'The technology required is akin to studio technology.' If an audio tape is going to be used as evidence, he said, 'You’d better know who said it and when.'"
The purpose of recording executive sessions is not to prove voice prints with 100% accuracy like on CSI. It's to allow a judge to see if the topics covered in executive session were legally allowed or not. Besides, if a recording showed seeming Open Public Meetings Act violations and the question of the identity of individual voices arose, there are simple ways to determine this. Like playing the recording in a deposition and asking the official, "Is that your voice?" Pretty simple. No "studio technology" required.
Ladenburg's strained excuse for not wanting to record executive sessions reminds us of another county official's: Taping (reel-to-reel, presumably) would take up too much storage space in county buildings.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
One of the forum panelists will be Allied Law Group's own Michele Earl-Hubbard.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
With that in mind, here is a story about the mayor of Detroit, who is under indictment for lying in a police whistle blower trial about whether he used his city phone to send sexual text messages to his girlfriend. Today the Mayor issued an edict that from now on text messages on city phones are "private" and not subject to Michigan's open records laws.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Why would og-blog readers care about Muskogee, OK? The town has a new mayor. He's 19 years old. And he campaigned on a platform of open government.
We would argue that open government is a traditional American value.
P.S. A trivial (but semi-interesting fact): Greg Overstreet has spent some time in Muskogee, OK because it is the headquarters of the Creek Indian Nation, of which he is a proud enrolled citizen.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Update: Here's an interesting quote in the TNT political blog from an agricultural-industry lobbyist who is trying to keep some exemptions from disclosure for that industry. He told the Sunshine Committee that the group is:
"a cynical political exercise pandering to a public perception that there should be openness in government." (emphasis added)
Yes. He said that.
The need for open government is merely a "public perception"? Is that because closed governments have such a swell history of treating people well? Name one. Anywhere in the world. At any point in human history.
A "perception" huh? We could have sworn that open government was actually the law--passed via initiative with a 72.06% "yes" vote.
Those silly little members of the public, thinking government should be open. What pipe dream will those rascally citizens think of next? Don't those little people know who is in charge?
Division II of the Court of Appeals issued this great decision today in West v. Thurston County.
It involves a request for Thurston County's outside-counsel legal invoices in a sexual harassment suit. In response to requests for these very records, the Legislature passed a special law saying, in essence, turn these records over. The County's outside lawyer, Michael Patterson, still fought to prevent disclosure. Now the County owes the requestor penalties and costs, and must also (ironically) pay the legal invoices from Michael Patterson for defending this appeal.
Oh, well. It really isn't anyone's money.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Says the S-R:
"The records are, after all, a product of the service Kempthorne performed on the public's behalf.
"The former governor's lawyer now says some of those documents might be exempt from disclosure and the past 24 months haven't been enough time to vet them to make sure that legitimately secret papers aren't released inadvertently. But Kempthorne seems to have a bias toward secrecy. His first instinct upon leaving Boise was to turn the records over to the University of Idaho to be sealed for 25 years. That's what he did with the records from his term in the U.S. Senate."
Saturday, May 10, 2008
This is the first settlement in the five Center for Justice cases filed during Sunshine Week. Settlements in most of the other cases are expected soon.
The Center for Justice's goal in filing these cases was to highlight the open meetings problems in the state, enforce the law in specific cases, and deter other violations. Most local governments involved in the first round of suits understand that it is in their (taxpayers') best interest to quickly and efficiently end these cases.
Note: Allied Law Group represents the Center for Justice in these cases.
The public has an interest, to put it mildly, in knowing whether police investigations of other police are done properly.
Friday, May 9, 2008
- Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington (state's 22 daily newspapers)
- Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (state's 140 or so weekly newspapers)
- Washington Association of Broadcasters (TV and radio)
- Society of Environmental Journalists
Here is a link to the media's friend-of-the-court brief (without the voluminous exhibits).
What do BIAW and the media groups have in common? Simple. Wanting access to government emails to keep government accountable. So the media groups filed a friend of the court brief in the state Supreme Court asking it to take BIAW's deleted email case.
Once again: open-government unites those who otherwise have little in common. It transcends ideology and partisanship.
Note: Allied Law Group represents BIAW in this case.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
How was KING 5 able to report this story? You guessed it: "According to internal documents obtained by the KING 5 Investigators, two counselors filled out logs saying the checks had been made."
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Here is the opinion.