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Monday, March 30, 2009

Big Bird Lobbies for Secrecy of Records Showing Birds Killing Humans

OK, sorry for the slightly flippant headline, but this is so silly.

The FAA won't release records showing incidents of birds striking aircraft, as happened a few weeks ago when the US Air jet crashed into the Hudson River.

Who wants to keep these things secret? The "bird lobby" is all we could come up with. You've heard of "Big Oil" and "Big Tobacco." Now it's:

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Sunshine Committee

The Spokesman-Review writes this editorial on keeping the Sunshine Committee.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Op-Ed on City of Seattle's Failure to Live Up To Auditor's Recommendations

This op-ed piece in the Seattle Times argues that the City of Seattle is failing to implement several recommendations made by the State Auditor in a public records performance audit.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"No, You Shut Up"

This article from The Stranger describes how a 64-old Inez Petersen was sued in order to shut up her opposition to a real estate development. They tried to seize her home computer. Seriously. She counter sued for attorneys fees--and won.

NOTE: Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard, working with the Buck Law Group, represented Petersen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Profile of Bill Maurer

This is a little out of the norm for og-blog. Bill Maurer is an attorney at the Institute for Justice fighting the good fight.

He was profiled in the King County Bar Bulletin. The profile was written by Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet.

Gov. Signs Inmate Requestor Bill

The Seattle Times reports that Gov. Gregoire signed the harassing inmate requestor bill into law.

Let's hope the law isn't expanded from "inmates" to "people who question what a government agency is doing."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kitsap County Won't Appeal Public Records Ruling

This Kitsap Sun article describes Kitsap County's decision not to appeal a recent ruling that it must disclose county employees' town of residence. The Kitsap Sun made the request and filed the suit to obtain the records.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group represented the Kitsap Sun in the case.

The story quotes Overstreet: "'The law worked as it's supposed to,' he said. 'The records that should have been disclosed were ordered disclosed and the requestor recovered at least most of the cost of enforcing the public's right to public records.'"

City of Seattle Proposing "Open Gov't" Ordinance That Isn't So Open

Crosscut has this article on a proposed open government ordinance at the City of Seattle.

Mayor Admits: Lack of Trust Leads to Public Records Requests

Finally. Confirmation of something we have always known but hadn't seen admitted: citizens' lack of trust of a governmental body often leads to more public records requests to verify what they're doing.

This Kitsap Sun story describes the situation on Bainbridge Island, which has over 600 requests a year in a city of 22,000 people.

So, instead of trying to pass bills to make it harder to request public records, perhaps local government could concentrate on giving citizens more trust in government. Just kidding. That trust thing is way harder.

Seattle Times Editorial on Open Gov't Initiative

This editorial covers the topics of an open government initiative and the increasing need for more openness.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

AP Story on Obama-Appointee Ron Sims' Horrible Open Gov't Track Record

The AP runs this story about President Obama's appointment of King County Executive Ron Sims to a high-level position at HUD, Sims' horrible open government record highlighted by the Yousoufian case, and how that seems to conflict with the President's openness promises.

NOTE: the story, discussing the Yousoufian case, quotes two Allied attorneys:

"'Let's hope President Obama is not relying on Ron Sims to carry out the president's transparency agenda,' said attorney Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief for the news media in the case."

And then:

"Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard, a veteran open-government attorney, said it was 'probably the most egregious case of incompetence I've seen in a very long time.'
'And the unwillingness to fix it was probably the most egregious part,' Earl-Hubbard said. 'At no time did anybody step up and say, "Hey, let's fix this. Let's stop bleeding the taxpayers."'"

Obama Administriation Issues FOIA Directive

President Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, issued a directive to agencies on how to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

The directive seems to be good. We will see how it is carried out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tri-City Herald Piece on Local Gov't Lobbyists

Ken Robertson of the Tri-City Herald nails it with this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More Sunshine Week Editorials

Sorry, we missed these earlier in the week, but here they are:

Sunshine Committee Delays Vote on Legislative Records Recommendation

Delay at the Sunshine Committee? This Olympian story describes it.

Editorial on Everett School District Secrecy

The (Everett) Herald writes this editorial on the Everett School District's penchant for secrecy, this time when they picked a new superintendent.

Sure seems to be a lot of news stories and editorials about the Everett School District's approach to open government ....

TNT Editorial on Applying Public Records Act to Legislature

This Tacoma News-Tribune editorial argues that the Legislature should adopt a Sunshine Committee recommendation to have the full Public Records Act apply to the Legislature.

UPDATED (2): Justice Sanders Benefitting from Yousoufian Ruling?

Here is an EFF Supreme Court blog post discussing a P-I article on whether Justice Sanders will benefit from the recent Yousoufian ruling.

UPDATE 1: Justice Sanders responds in this piece from the (now online-only) P-I.

UPDATE 2: The Court of Appeals hearing Justice Sanders' case says only the Supreme Court can hear the case.

Everett Teachers Sue School District for Public Records

The Everett School District--once again--has been sued for failing to disclose public records, reports the Seattle Times.

NOTE: Allied Law Group represents a parent suing the Everett School District for Public Records Act violations.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunshine Committee Discusses Legislative Records

This post from Jason Mercier's blog at the Washington Policy Center describes the Sunshine Committee's discussion of a recommendation to the Legislature to make sure legislative records are disclosed.

Kitsap Sun Editorial for Sunshine Week

This editorial from the Kitsap Sun lays it all out for Sunshine Week.

NOTE: The case to obtain county employees' town of residence referred to in the editorial was handled for the Kitsap Sun by Allied Law Group.

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Open Gov't Initiative

This editorial mentions Attorney General McKenna's call for an open government initiative since the Legislature is so worthless (our thoughts, not the AG's, on the "worthless" thing).

Bill to Restrict Inmate Records Requests Passes House

Here's the Seattle Times blog piece on it.

AG McKenna Op-Ed on Open Gov't

Attorney General Rob McKenna writes this op-ed on open government in the Tacoma News-Tribune.

For what it's worth, we are familiar with the AG's writing style and can see that this op-ed has some heartfelt teeth in it.

McKenna mentions a letter he and State Auditor Brian Sonntag sent to local governments. Here it is.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Allied on Podcast

Evergreen Freedom Foundation's podcast, Radio Free Washington, has a segment on open government with Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet as the guest.

Give it a listen (scroll down to "Greg Overstreet").

Op-Ed on Legislature Providing Their Own Public Records

Here is a great op-ed piece in today's Olympian by Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center.

It describes why the Legislature should not be exempt from the Public Records Act (we don't think they are, but we'll assume so for the sake of argument). The op-ed piece looks at the recent example of an email from a labor union to legislators that, according to reported accounts, links campaign contributions to voting for a bill. We only know about the email because the Legislature decided to tell us.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Agencies' Progress on Putting Records Online

This AP story describes how some agencies are putting more records online (eliminating the need for public records requests) and others aren't doing so well.

Note: This story quotes Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Police Clear Out "Open" Public Meeting

Let's just say that having the police tell people to leave a public meeting under the guise of the custodians needing to clean up would violate the Open Public Meetings Act.

Read all about it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

! McKenna Calls For Open Gov't Initiative !

Speaking at a legislative day gathering of newspaper publishers yesterday, Attorney General Rob McKenna suggested an initiative might be necessary to improve the state's open government laws. We were there and heard it ourselves.

McKenna's suggestion came after detailing how local government special interests seem to be killing every reasonable improvement to these laws, such as the executive session taping bill.

McKenna is right. It's time for an initiative.

An initiative covering the topic of open government should amendment a few provisions of the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act. These laws have been operating for almost 40 years so we have a track record of what's working and not working. We can clearly see specific areas needing improvement, and we have very practical and specific improvements in mind.

Remember: local governments cannot legally spend money to defeat an open government initiative. They will, but it's illegal.

Obama Funds FOIA Ombudsman Position

After some remarks critical of the Obama administration's beginning track record on open government, we are glad to see the President's budget proposal includes the funding of a FOIA ombudsman.

UPDATED: Local Gov't Suing Records Requestor

Washington law provides that public records must be promptly provided, with limited exceptions.

So make a public records request.

And get sued by the government.

This story from the Bellingham Herald describes what the City of Bellingham is doing.

The story quotes Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group.

UPDATE: Well, the requestor went on offense and sued the City before the City could sue her. Here is Sam Taylor's blog piece on it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Great Idea From Utah: Database of Public Meetings

The state of Utah is ahead of the times.

They have a web site where the public can find out about the dates, times, and locations of all public meetings of state and local governmental entities.

Seems like the state of Washington--the state where Microsoft pretty much invented modern computing--could bring itself up to the Utah standard.

Thanks for this tip from Brian's Secret Squirrel. You know who you are.

UPDATED: That's the Sound of a Slamming Door ...

... in this NPR audio clip of a reporter trying to learn about the state budget being written now in Olympia.

UPDATE: The Legislature finally released the records.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Read the Bill"

This is from Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center on efforts to require a time-out period before voting on a bill so the public can see what the bill says.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tax Hike Proposals: Don't Want Those To Get Out

This piece from NPR's Austin Jenkins on Crosscut describes how hard it is for him to obtain records from the State on pending proposals to raise taxes.

UPDATE: More on this topic from the Spokesman-Review (via The Olympian).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Public Records Show ... College Labor Center Audit Findings

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center posts this about a public records he made to the Evergreen State College for the results of an internal audit of that school's Labor Center. Rather interesting to see what the internal audit found.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Baltimore Story of Open Gov't Workaround

This interesting story, sent to us by one of the AP's finest reporters, describes how a reporter had to use "workarounds" to get information from the Baltimore police ... and how those workarounds are not working any more.

This story is interesting because it shows the struggle, and the stakes, of open government and how much harder it's getting out there.

AG Ombudsman Finds Possible Violations by Fire District

The Wenatchee World reports that the Attorney General's Open Government Ombudsman, Tim Ford, found that Chelan Fire District No. 7 might have violated the Open Public Meetings Act.