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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Delays in Providing Palin Emails Exceed Her Term as Governor

MSNBC has this story on the very long delays in getting former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's state emails.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mechling Settles Public Records Case with City of Monroe

Meredith Mechling, who is a true open-government hero, settled her long and nasty Public Records Act case against the City of Monroe.

She received $157,394 in attorney fees, costs, and penalties. The Public Records Act requires a violating agency to pay these to a successful requestor.

This payment could have been avoided if the City had just provided the records in the first place. Now Meredith Mechling will be portrayed as the "villain" who "cost" the City $157,394. She isn't the villain.

You can count on the City of Monroe using its expensive violation of the law as a reason to provide fewer public records. It "costs" so much, you see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

King County Tackles Social Media Rules for Open Gov't

The Local Open Government Blog, put out by the law firm of Foster Pepper which represents local governments in Public Records Act matters, has this piece on how King County is addressing the open-government ramifications of County use of social media like Facebook and Twitter using County resources. The County has established a work group to make recommendations.

Good for King County. (See: We compliment government when it does the right thing.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Public Records Show ... Tax-Exempt Hospital Employees Made a Lot of Money

KUOW describes how public records allowed it to find out that 21 employees of tax-exempt hospitals in the Puget Sound area made over $1,000,000.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not Too Much Open Gov't Going On

We are not on vacation here at og-blog. There hasn't been too much going on in the open government world.

We'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitsap Sun Describes Why It Sought Police Dash Cam Video of Police Shooting

David Nelson of the Kitsap Sun writes this column on why his newspaper went to court to obtain a copy of a police dash cam video showing the shooting death of a motorist--and why the paper ultimately decided not to put the video on its web site even after winning the court case.

This is a very important example of privacy and accountability. Accountability ultimately won out, which is the purpose of the Public Records Act, but the Kitsap Sun acted with compassion to honor the wishes of the deceased's family as much as possible. A class act.

NOTE: The column mentions Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group who represented the Kitsap Sun in the case.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Supreme Court Issues Public Records Ruling in Lakewood Police Killer Case

The Supreme Court decided--unanimously--in favor of releasing public records and court files involving the trial of those accused of aiding Maurice Clemmons when he killed four Lakewood police officers.

Here is the opinion and a blog piece on it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Praise for an Elected Official

Tracy Warner of the Wenatchee World writes this piece praising the open-government work of Chelan County Clerk Siri Woods.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Port Angeles "Do Over" Because of Open Meetings Issues

The Local Open Government Blog, sponsored by a law firm representing local governments, has this piece on a joint pool district having to meet a second time (this time in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act) to hire a director. It also discusses the question of which bodies are subject to the OPMA.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Public Records Show ... Evidence Leading to Indictment of Sheriff

A Kentucky newspaper used that state's public records law to find some disturbing things about a local sheriff, which then led to his indictment.

Once again, trouble makers use a public records law to just bother people.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Attorney General Model Rules for Open Meetings?

Mike Reitz at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation writes this on whether the Attorney General's Office will draft model rules for open meetings like they did for public records.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Washington Coalition for Open Gov't Forum in Olympia

The Washington Coalition for Open Government held a forum in Olympia last night. The Olympian writes this story about it.

It was amazing--and sad--that of the 70 or so people in the audience there were only 2 elected officials. One of them complained about how much work it is to respond to public records requests.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boehner on New Congressional Transparency Measures

U.S. House Speaker-Designate John Boehner writes this in the Wall Street Journal on what the next Speaker (that would be him) should do.

The open-government highlights are:
  • Let Americans read bills before they are brought to a vote.
  • No more "comprehensive" bills.
  • No more bills written behind closed doors in the speaker's office.

All this is good. But we've heard this before from whomever was about to assume power. As with the Democrats, we will applaud Republicans' promised open-government reforms only when we see them actually put into place.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Op-Ed on Need for Attorney General Guidance on Open Meetings Law

Mike Reitz of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation writes this great op-ed piece in the Seattle Times describing why the Attorney General's Office needs to provide some model rules on the Open Public Meetings Act.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Public Records Show ... Bell, CA Officials Charged Business Seemingly Illegal Fees

The LA Times, through public records, can show that Bell, CA city officials charged some businesses tens of thousands of dollars in fees for permits in order to pay their outrageous salaries:
For at least a decade, officials in Bell arbitrarily required some
businesses to make payments to the city totaling tens of thousands of dollars
annually, in at least one case threatening a business owner with closure if he
failed to comply, according to interviews and records reviewed by The

The payment scheme affected at least 15 businesses, mostly small
operations that include restaurants, tire shops, auto detailers and a

In some cases, merchants were directed to make thousands of dollars in
annual payments as part of conditional use permits granted by the city. Others
were required to guarantee thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue for the
city each year. If their sales failed to measure up to projections, they were
told to pay the difference, according to city records and interviews.
There is a term for people in power demanding payments from businesses under the illegitimate threat of closure. We will let our sophisticated readers come up with that word in their own mind.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evergreen Freedom Foundation Issues Report on Open Public Meetings Act Violations

More good work from EFF.

Public Records Show ... L&I Lied to Legislature on Workers Comp Rate Increase

The Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal writes that the director of the state Department of Labor and Industries lied (the Journal's word) to the Legislature when she said the agency did not have a number for the pending workers compensation rate increase. Public records show they did (but the agency redacted the number).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Taking your government for a stroll in the dark"

The Tri-City Herald writes this piece on how the Legislature ignores the open-government promises it makes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Obama Given Low Marks for Transparency

This is from NextGov, a nonpartisan publication aimed at readers in the government technology industry.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

County Wants to Discuss Union Salaries in Private

Sam Taylor at the Bellingham Herald is on top of the story as usual.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Whatcom County Calls Special Meeting to Look at Its Public Records Compliance

The Bellingham Herald has this blog piece on some interesting proactive work by at least one member of the Whatcom County Council to look into accusations of inadequate public records compliance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EFF to Appeal Ruling Denying Access to Ferry Worker Drug Testing Records

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation would like to see if state ferry workers are failing mandatory drug and alcohol testing. The state won't turn over the records. EFF will appeal a ruling that these records can remain secret.

Many Candidates Silent on Open Gov't Issues

Kim Bradford at The (Tacoma) News-Tribune writes this piece on how numerous candidates are not responding to a questionnaire from the Washington Coalition for Open Government asking their positions on open government issues.

Open government is one of the most popular political issues according to poll after poll. Why aren't candidates taking the opportunity to explain to voters that they are pro-open government? Could it be that local elected officials like county commissioners and city council members generally don't like open government and their endorsements of a candidate are more important to that candidate than being pro-open government?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

David Seago Op-Ed in Tri-City Herald

David Seago writes this great op-ed piece.

Oregon Attorney General Works on Open Gov't Issues

The Oregon Attorney General did a study of that state's open government laws and has some proposals to fix them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

! Supreme Court Rules Metadata a "Public Record" !

The Washington Supreme Court handed down their much-anticipated ruling in O'Neill v. City of Shoreline. Their main holdings are:
  • Metadata in an email or other electronic document is a "public record" subject to disclosure.
  • A print-out of the email is not sufficient if metadata is requested.
  • An agency may not delete emails that have been requested; the electronic version of the email must be preserved and provided.

It was a 5-4 decision. The justices ruling in favor of disclosure were: Owens, Fairhurst, Sanders, Stephens, and Chambers.

A dissent argued that the agency examining an agency employee's home computer for public records is potentially an unlawful "search." The dissenting justices were: Alexander, Chief Justice Madsen, C. Johnson, and J. Johnson.

The Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief arguing against disclosure.

UPDATE: Here is an AP story about the case. Here is a blog piece by Bruce Ramsey and Lynne Varner of the Seattle Times.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard, David Norman, and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group represented the public records requestors.

Bell, CA City Manager May Sue for Back Pay!

You can't make this stuff up.

Note that the purported decision to provide the city manager severance pay was made in a closed executive session. Of course. You wouldn't want people to see what was going on.

Thanks to Bill for this story.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Public Records Show ... Recalled Kids' Glasses Toxic

The Associated Press writes this story about the recall of "Shrek" glasses provided in McDonald's Happy Meals. Apparently, it only takes eight touches on the glass in one day for a child to get a toxic dose of cadmium.

We knew that the glasses had been recalled, but how did we know just how toxic they were? "[A]ccording to documents obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Editorial on How Bell, CA Scandal Shows Need for Public Records Laws

The (Longview) Daily News writes this fabulous editorial describing exactly why laws like the Public Records Act are needed--just look at Bell, California.

Open Meetings Act Violates Politicians' Free Speech Rights?

A law professor writes a paper (link to abstract provided) arguing that open government laws such as the Open Public Meetings Act "chill" the free speech rights of elected officials by prohibiting them from conducting public business in secret.

Apparently the professor advocates government's constitutional right to rule people in secret.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yakima County Settles Real Estate Database Case

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that Yakima County has settled a Public Records Act case to obtain a copy of the County's real estate title database. The database is provided in the requested format in every other county in Washington.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group represented the records requestor, Sage Information Services.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Frank Blethen on the Future of Watchdog Journalism

Frank Blethen, the publisher of the Seattle Times, gave this speech to the Washington Coalition of Open Government. It was a great speech and discusses the future of watchdog journalism.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UPDATED: Allied Law Group Named a U.S. News & World Report "Best Law Firm"

The sponsors of og-blog are very happy to announce that our firm has been named by U.S. & World Report in its 2010 “Best Law Firms” series. We ranked First Tier for the Seattle metropolitan area in these practice groups:

  • · Media & First Amendment Law
  • · Administrative / Regulatory Law
  • · Government Relations Practice

Here is a link to our listing.

Here is a link to some background on the U.S. News ranking process.

Here is a blog piece in The Olympian about it.
UPDATE: The South Sound Business Examiner also wrote about the award.

Anthony Hemstad Wins Open Gov't Award

The Washington Coalition for Open Government presented Anthony Hemstad, an elected director of a King County hospital district, with their "Key Award." Congratulations.

Bell, CA Officials Arrested

Public records showed that Bell, CA officials were earning huge annual salaries, with one of almost $800,000. Now they've been arrested.

Dang those public records. See what kind of misery they lead to? The prisons would be less crowded if it weren't for the Public Records Act.

Monday, September 20, 2010

State Won't Tell Us Public Employee Salary Data

Karen Peterson of The (Tacoma) News Tribune writes this amazing piece. Wow. We can't find out how much government employees make.

Local Governments Will Try to Restrict Public Records in Next Legislative Session

The (Everett) Herald reports on Snohomish County's, and other local governments', attempts in the next legislative session to control "abusive requestors" by, among other things, charging for staff time to retrieve records.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Sunshine Committee Appointments

Here are the new (and not-so-new) members of the Sunshine Committee.

Justice Sanders Wins Public Records Case Against State

Justice Richard Sanders won an appeal of a Public Records Act case. He filed a request to the Attorney General's Office and, according to the Supreme Court, did not receive all the records. He was awarded attorneys fees and a daily penalty. The court's opinion was unanimous.

UPDATED: Fun Forest Secrecy

The City of Seattle won't disclose proposals for the what they plan to do with the old Fun Forest site at the Seattle Center.

It's just publicly-owned property and public money for the project ... why involve the public?

UPDATE: The City Attorney's Office says the report can be kept secret.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seattle Times Asks Supreme Court for Lakewood Cop Killer Records

The Associated Press has this piece on the efforts of The Seattle Times to obtain records relating to the person who is alleged to have killed four Lakewood police officers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Initiative Signatures (Other Than R-71) Released

The Olympian reports that a Thurston County Superior Court ordered the release of the signatures on various Tim Eyman iniatives. The R-71 signatures are a different matter because the case on dislcosing them is still pending in a federal court.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spokesman Review Editorial on Governor's (Latest) Claim of Executive Privilege

The Spokesman Review writes this editorial on why the Governor should not be claiming "executive privilege" as a way to avoid providing public records. "Executive privilege" is not listed in the Public Records Act as an exemption from disclosure. It is a constitutional principle ... but has never been recognized in this context by a Washington appellate court.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seattle Times Editorial on Ann Bremner DUI Records Case


The best way to exponentially increase the amount of publicity about yourself is to sue to prevent the disclosure of public records. Now, instead of a one-day story about a famous Seattle attorney being arrested for DUI, there is an editorial in the Seattle Times because the attorney is filing a suit to prevent anyone from seeing the police report. The worst strategy ever for making a story go away.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Olympian Editorial on Secretive Legislature

This editorial in The Olympian describes why the Legislature needs to be more open. It is based on a study done by the Washington Policy Center. The piece also describes how few candidates answered an open-government questionnaire.

Friday, August 20, 2010

TNT Editorial on Governor Filling Spots on Sunshine Committee

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News Tribune urges Gov. Gregoire to fill vacancies on the Sunshine Committee and appoint a chair who isn't pro-agency like the last one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Governor Lets Sunshine Committee Drift

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center writes this piece on the Governor's inaction on vacancies on the Sunshine Committee. It doesn't seem like repealing unneeded exemptions from the Public Records Act is a high priority for her.

Here, by the way, are the appointments the Governor has had time to make.

Spokane Locks Doors to City Council Meeting

After receiving mail containing a mystery powder, the City of Spokane closed City Hall. Then, with the doors locked, had a city council meeting. Which violates the Open Public Meetings Act. The Spokesman-Review writes this story on what happened.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group is quoted in the story.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Obama Open Gov't Chief Leaves Without Replacement

Looks like the Obama Administration's open government "czar" is now the Ambassador to the Czech Republic and his job is being done by people who already have plenty to do. That is, there will not be a replacement for the departing open government chief.

We won't be obnoxious and list all the promises of transparency and open government made by candidate Obama, President-Elect Obama, and then President Obama. The record has been abysmal. And after the last President, that is saying something.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

City Council Member Devises Code for Communicating in Disclosable Public Records

It seems that a Sumner city council member wanted to use code to communicate in city emails without those pesky public records requestors knowing what was being said. So he came up with a code ... and put the code in an email that was disclosed.

Ohio Won't Release Public Employee Pension Records

The request for pension records asked the agencies to black out the names and addresses of recipients ... so how are the recipients' right to "privacy" affected?

You don't suppose the agencies have anything to hide, do you?

How the Story on the $800,000 City Manager Happened

This article describes how the LA Times was able to report on the city manager who was making almost $800,000, a story that created a national furor.

Hint: public records.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Article on Impact of Public Records Requests on the City of Yakima

This story in the Yakima Herald-Republic describes how public records requests are affecting the City of Yakima. It does a nice job of describing both sides of the story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Public Records Show ... Surveillance and Infiltration of Local Anti-War Protestors

The ACLU found out quite a bit--via public records--about state and local agencies' surveillance and infiltration of Seattle-area anti-war protesters.

Public records are a critical tool to keep tabs on what government is doing. This is a prime example. Whether it is finding out how government is spending money on questionable programs or infiltrating anti-war groups, we get to find out. Public records have no ideological bent. We get to learn the good and the bad from the right and the left. Public records just tell us what happened; we get to draw our own conclusions.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Great Example of What's Wrong

This blog piece by Preston Mui of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation describes his public records request to Sound Transit. The agency printed out and mailed emails instead of ... emailing them. And they charged Preston for printing them out and mailing them.

Seriously, you should read this piece.

Questions about Tacoma's Settlemenet of Billboard Case in Executive Session

Lewis Kamb of the TNT blogs on the Tacoma City Council's vote--right after coming out of an executive session--to accept a settlement in a constitutional lawsuit about billboards without any discussion.

Editorial on Obama Administration's Open Gov't Record

This editorial from The (Longview) Daily News discusses the troubling practice of the Department of Homeland Security to have political appointees review some FOIA requests for public records. The editorial also describes the Obama administration's poor track record on open government.

Monday, August 2, 2010

$800,000 City Manger: Public Records and a Newspaper Saved the Day

Here is a very good editorial from the Tri-City Herald. It makes the point that in order to uncover the $800,000 city manager scandal, it took a newspaper looking into the matter (via public records). It was, indeed, a newspaper that told the world about the travesty in Bell, California.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Fullest Assistance"? Close Enough for Gov't Work

This piece from Mike Reitz of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation describes his attempt to get a simple public record from the Belfair Water District.

Latest Parmelee Decision

The Court of Appeals issued another Parmelee decision. He is the controversial prisoner who makes numerous public records requests of prison officials.

The case was mixed. Here is the court's summary of what it held in the three cases consolidated into the single appeal:

In conclusion, we hold that, despite obvious and repeated abuses, prison inmates had and
continue to have standing to request records under the PRA. Although at the time Parmelee filed
the requests at issue in this case the trial court could not consider Parmelee’s intent when
determining whether a document is subject to disclosure under the PRA, we hold that it did not
err when it considered Parmelee’s explicit and volunteered threat in deciding whether to grant the
government employee’s request for an injunction to protect the individual rights of that
government employee.

Accordingly, as to Mathieu v. Parmelee, we are constrained to reverse the injunction
against Parmelee because she was not named in his counterfeit sexual predator flyer and is unable
to demonstrate that she was the victim of this explicit and volunteered threat. Moreover, we hold
that the trial court erred when it found that Mathieu’s personnel records, intelligence and
investigation reports, and portions of her compensation records and training records were exempt
from disclosure under the PRA. But because the record on appeal to this court does not contain
the records DOC compiled for Parmelee regarding Mathieu, remand is necessary to allow the trial
court to review in camera the documents regarding Mathieu’s personnel records, intelligence and
investigation reports, and training records and determine whether Parmelee is entitled to them.

As to DeLong v. DOC, we hold that while Parmelee’s request to intervene was properly
denied as untimely, the trial court erred when it refused to join Parmelee as a necessary party. We
must vacate for want of jurisdiction and remand to the trial court for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.

As to DOC v. Parmelee, we hold that while ordinarily a superior court cannot consider a
PRA requestor’s intent when determining whether an injunction is appropriate, DOC employees
have the right to seek an injunction to protect their individual privacy rights when faced with anexplicit and volunteered threat.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SEC Claims It Is Now Exempt from FOIA

Why would people need to get public records to see if the Securities and Exchange Commission--the same agency which was repeatedly warned about Bernie Maddof and did nothing--is doing its job? The SEC says it is now exempt from FOIA.

Op-Ed on Public Records and the $800,000 City Manager

Richard Davis of the Washington Research Council writes this op-ed in The (Everett) Herald on why access to public records tells us important things like the $800,000 salary of a city manager in a small and lower-income town.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Public Records Brought Down $800,000 City Manager

This piece from Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center explains how that pesky Public Records Act allowed the public to learn of a city manager of a small and poor California city who makes an annual salary of almost $800,000.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Lack of Disclosure of Criminal Defense Costs

This Tri-City Herald editorial describes the (sadly increasing) trend of criminal defense attorneys and even courts to refuse to disclose the costs of taxpayer-funded criminal defenses.

Legislator Asks For Attorney General's Opinion on Oak Harbor Meetings

The Whidbey News-Times reports that Rep. Barb Bailey has requested an Attorney General's opinion on the City of Oak Harbor's practice of holding regular meetings of various "standing committees" of the City Council where more than a quorum of the council apparently attend.

NOTE: The article notes that the Whidbey News-Times has consulted with Allied Law Group on the matter.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Public Records Show ... Congress Spent $604,000 on Bottled Water for Itself

The Sunlight Foundation's report on how Congress spends the $1 billion annually that it spends on its own operations revealed some very interesting things.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homeland Security Flagged some FOIA Requests for Political Scrutiny

Here is what the Associated Press found:

"For at least a year, the Homeland Security Department detoured hundreds of requests for federal records to senior political advisers for highly unusual scrutiny, probing for information about the requesters and delaying disclosures deemed too politically sensitive, according to nearly 1,000 pages of internal e-mails obtained by The Associated Press."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did Hospital District Violate OPMA When Selecting New Director

The Port Townsend Leader has this story on the (frustratingly frequent) issue of an agency decision to hire a new director and narrowing the field of candidates in a closed-to-the-public executive session.

NOTE: The article quotes Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Public Records Show ... City Manager Making Almost $800,000 a Year


A city manager of a town of 40,000 making almost $800,000 a year? In a state that is having a financial crisis? Police are being laid off but this guy makes that kind of money? Some city council members making $8,000 a year while others are making over $100,000? Huh?

While city leaders were making this kind of money, the city was paying laborers $9 per hour with no benefits. Here is the story on that.

See how divisive that evil Public Records Act is? If it weren't for these public records that whole town would be living in harmony.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Editorial on Library District Open Meetings Issue

This editorial from The Olympian discusses the seeming violation of the Open Public Meetings Act by the Timberline Library District when hiring a new executive director. Here is a previous story on the issue.

NOTE: The editorial quotes Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group. He is quoted as saying the board of trustees should have "defined" the issue in an open meeting. That is a misprint; he said the trustees should have "discussed" the issue in an open meeting.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More Open Gov't Stories on Allied's Facebook Page

If you like og-blog providing you with links to open-government articles and stories, then you'll really like Allied Law Group's Facebook page. We have at least double the material on our Facebook page. Also, you can comment on the stories on Facebook.

You can sign up at and search for "Allied Law Group."

More on R-71 Decision

This piece by Cal Fitzsimmons of the Wenatchee World discusses the balancing of interests in the R-71 case.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The (Everett) Herald Editorial on Everett School District Open Meetings Issue

This editorial describes an alleged violation of the Open Public Meetings Act by the Everett School District.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Supreme Court to Review Lakewood Police Public Records Case

EFF's Washington Supreme Court of Washington Blog has a piece on the state Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case about a public records request for records relating to the investigation of the Lakewood police killer and the trial of his alleged accomplices.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Counties Losing Insurance Coverage for Public Records Act Violations?

This story in The (Grays Harbor) Daily World suggests that Washington counties no longer have insurance for PRA violations.

This should encourage agencies to avoid breaking the law. We'll see. But old habits die hard.

Library Board Might Have Violated OPMA in Hiring Decision

This article from The Olympian describes a very detailed employment proposal that came out of an executive session that could merely consider the "qualifications" of a candidate for employment.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group is quoted in the article.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

GAO: Obama Website on Stimulus Spending Not Transparent

The General Accounting Office finds that the Obama administration is not meeting its own transparency requirements for its web site on how stimulus money is being spent.

Judge Orders Newspaper to Destroy Archives of Old News Stories

Huh? How is this legal?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

R-71 Case Part II

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the R-71 case back to the lower court to determine if release of the records would violate the new test they laid out. This editorial from The Olympian discussing this second phase of the case.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Court of Appeals: PRA Statute of Limitation Not Triggered Until Proper Withholding Index Provided

The Court of Appeals issued it's ruling in Tobin v. Worden today. They got it exactly right.

As the Supreme Court held last year, the one-year statute of limitations for a Public Records Act case does not begin to run until the agency provides the required index showing the records it is withholding. Tobin just applies that to a set of facts where the agency never provided a withholding index so the statute of limitation was never triggered.

Kagan Argued Against Openness 4 out of 5 Times

This AP story begins:

"Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's arguments as solicitor general in several cases on government secrecy were at odds with a promise of transparency made by her boss and top client, President Barack Obama."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NFOIC Hires Ken Bunting

The National Freedom of Information Coalition has announced that former Seattle P-I editor Ken Bunting will be its new executive director.

We know Ken Bunting very well and think the world of him. NFOIC is getting a great executive director. Congratulations, Ken!

TNT Editorial on Juvenile Court Records

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune editorializes against a proposal to shield more juvenile records from the public.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(Everett) Herald Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The (Everett) Herald editorializes on the Legislature's lack of transparency and discusses the findings of the Washington Policy Center on this topic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Seattle Times Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Seattle Times editorializes on a darned good idea from the Washington Policy Center: legislative transparency so the people know what their (supposed) representatives are voting on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TNT Editorial on Judge's Decision to Withhold Records on Lakewood Police Killings

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune is known for pithy editorials. Here's one of them.

(Updated) Public Records Show ... Details About "Damage Control" in Alleged Sex

The (Everett) Herald writes about how public records shed some light on "damage control" efforts by Snohomish County and a lobbying group when a high-ranking County employee was accused of sexual misconduct by an employee of the lobbying group.

UPDATE: Police reports obtained via the Public Records Act shed more light on what happened.

Olympian Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Olympian writes this editorial on the Legislature's lack of transparency.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Judge Refuses to Release Records on Lakewood Police Killings

A Pierce County judge ruled that defendants' right to a fair trial "trumps" the Public Records Act requirement of disclosure of records relating to the Lakewood police killings.

The newspaper requestors will appeal.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Transparency at the Legislature

The (Vancouver) Columbian writes this about ways to improve transparency at the Legislature. The proposals in the piece come from the Washington Policy Center.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Discussing Whatever They Like in a "Study Session"

This article from The (Tacoma) News-Tribune discusses the Port of Olympia's apparent belief that they can discuss things like the creation of a new position at a "study session."

If the "study sessions" are not properly noticed regular or special meetings, the Port cannot discuss Port business, and the creation of a new Port position certainly qualifies as that. If the meetings are a properly noticed special meeting, and there is no indication in the story that they are, then they can only discuss the items on the agenda for that special meeting, not drift into new areas.

Coffee Meetings Might Violate the Open Public Meetings Act

This article from Spokesman-Review describes apparent "coffee meetings" of a city in advance of the "real" city council meetings. The public is not notified of the "coffee meetings."

If city business is discussed or acted up at a non-noticed meeting, it would violate the Open Public Meetings Act.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Book 'em Danno"

Jason Mercier shows his age by referring to Hawaii Five-O in this piece on the debate over booking photos in the Sunshine Committee.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kitsap Sun Describes Why It Had to Sue Kitsap County Over Public Records

David Nelson, editor of The (Kitsap) Sun, describes why his newspaper won a recent Court of Appeals ruling against Kitsap County and why the paper is reluctantly costing the County so much money.

NOTE: Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet and David Norman represent The Sun in this case.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Public Records Requestor Must Be Part of Suit Over Records

The Supreme Court ruled that a public records requestor must be allowed to participate in a case about the disclosure of those records.

Here is the opinion and here is a Seattle Times story on the case.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Texts are Public Records

PubliCola explains why text messages conducting agency business are public records.

Sigh. Is this still in question? Guess so.

Thanks to a reader of this blog for the story.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kistap Sun Beats Kitsap County in PRA Case

The Court of Appeals ruled today for the Kitsap Sun in a Public Records Act case. The opinion addresses the issue of whether an agency's less than neutral actions in effect deny a request when a third party files an injunction against disclosure.

NOTE: Allied Law Group's Greg Overstreet and David Norman represented the Kitsap Sun in the case.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Open Meetings

A great editorial on a local government attempting to meet in secret.

(Vancouver) Columbian Editorial on Cameras in Courts

The (Vancouver) Columbian writes this editorial on cameras in federal courts, specifically the U.S. Supreme Court.

Washington courts have cameras in our Supreme Court and things go just fine.

What Can Happen When You Pass Laws in Secret

Apparently, mistakes are made when those most affected by a proposed new law don't get any input on it. The Spokesman-Review describes how this happened with the new soda tax.

(By the way, it's a little thing, but here on the West Coast we call carbonated beverages "pop," not "soda." I know the AP Style Manual says "soda" since that's the term used nationally so it's not the Spokesman's fault, but we're just noting how grating it is to hear "soda.")

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seattle Times Piece on R-71 Case

Ryan Blethen of the Seattle Times writes this on the R-71 case.

Friday, April 30, 2010

TNT Editorial on R-71 Case

Yet another good editorial.

Wenatchee World Column on R-71 Case

Tracy Warner at the Wenatchee World writes this column on why publicly signing an initiative is an important part of the process.

Kitsap Sun on Open Meetings

David Nelson of the Kitsap Sun writes this piece on why the Open Public Meetings Act matters.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Transcript of R-71 Oral Argument in U.S. Supreme Court

Here is the transcript.

Summary of R-71 Argument in US Supreme Court

The SCOTUS blog has this on today's argument.

We're with Scalia on this one.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

(Everett) Herald Editorial on R-71

Yet another editorial on the R-71 case.

Anti-Dislcosure Op-Ed on R-71 Case

The attorneys arguing against disclosure in the R-71 case write this op-ed in the Seattle Times.

McKenna Op-Ed on R-71 Case

The Attorney General writes this op-ed in the Seattle Times.

TNT Editorial on R-71 Case

Here it is.

Monday, April 26, 2010

TNT Explains Why It Obtains Public Salary Database

Karen Peterson of The (Tacoma) News Tribune writes this excellent piece on why that newspaper makes public records requests for public salaries and keeps them in a database. The first sentence pretty much sums it up:

"What you make for a living is your business. Unless we pay your salary."

Video Tape a Public Meeting, Go to Jail

Exercising your right to open government can land you in jail.

Friday, April 23, 2010

(Vancouver) Columbian Editorial on R-71 Case in US Supreme Court

This editorial from The (Vancouver) Columbian describes Attorney General Rob McKenna's argument in the U.S. Supreme Court on the R-71 case involving the disclosure of initiative signatures.

Public Records Show ... SEC Staff Viewing Porn During Wall Street Meltdown in 2008

A memo obtained by the Associated Press shows that some staff at the Security and Exchange Commission were not doing what we pay them to do ... while Wall Street was imploding in September, 2008 (AIG, Lehman Bros., etc.).

The SEC staff need to unionize like public employees in Washington state. If they did, they would sue any public records requestor who sought to show they were watching porn on their work computers. They would assert a "privacy" interest in their workplace internet browsing histories.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Benton Clean Air Authority Public Records Act Case

The Tri-City Herald writes this editorial on a local government that settled a public records case.

McKenna Prepares to Argue R-71 Case in U.S. Supreme Court

This (Everett) Herald story describes Attorney General Rob McKenna's preparations to argue the R-71 case on the disclosure of initiative signatures in the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is rare for elected Attorneys General to actually argue cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. But McKenna is very good at this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spokesman Blog on Secretive Legislature

This blog piece from Jim Camden of the Spokesman-Review describes how during the special session on the state budget the Legislature negotiated with itself behind closed doors and then--poof!--took a vote, all without any public input.

Friday, April 16, 2010

EFF Sues State Ferry Agency for Drug and Alcohol Testing Records

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation sued the Washington State Department of Transportation, which operates the state ferries, to obtain ferry workers' drug and alcohol testing records.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

(Longview) Daily News Editorial on Special Privileges for Media

The (Longview) Daily News joins other newspapers in criticizing HB 1317's grant of special public records privileges to news media.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Olympian Editorial on Special Access to Public Records for Media

This editorial from The Olympian is fabulous.

A while ago, we said that the media was not glad to have special access to some public records; we called it the "caste system." This editorial describes why everyone, not just the media, should have access to public records.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Legislative Speed Readers

How about some transparency from the Legislature? That is the question asked by Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center as reported by Sam Taylor of the Bellingham Herald.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Agencies Can Now Respond to Public Records Request by Posting Records Online

This piece from Local Open Government Blog, a blog by a law firm representing government agencies, describes SB 6367. The law goes into effect on June 10, 2010 and allows agencies to respond to a public records request by providing a link to a requestor of the document if that document is on the agency's web site. A requestor without web access can still obtain a copy.

Here it is 2010 and the Legislature finally passed this. This idea was proposed in 2006 by Attorney General Rob McKenna. If we recall correctly, local government lobbyists opposed the idea then.

This new law saves agencies and requestors time and money, and encourages agencies to post public records online. Good public policy.

The passage of this bill should relieve some local government staff and lobbyists who claim that many public records requestors are just maliciously trying to waste agency resource by making agency staff find records and copy them. Nope. A link will do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Elma Proposes a Brand New Kind of Meeting: a "Closed Session" ... Which Is Illegal

When the law doesn't let you do what you want, try to change it. As in: go to the Legislature and try to amend the law so that whatever it is you want to do would now be legal. That's how you do it.

But don't come up with a new term to describe what it is you want to do and then claim that what you're doing is this new thing, not the thing that's illegal.

The City of Elma, realizing that they can't do what they want in an "executive session," has come up with a new term: a "closed session." This new thing, a "closed session," is different than an executive session. Because it's called something different.

Abraham Lincoln used to tell this joke: "How many legs does a dog have if you count his tail as a leg?" When people answered "five," he would say, "No, four. Because you can call a tail a leg, but it ain't."

You can call an executive session a "closed session" but it ain't.

This article from The (Aberdeen) Daily World describes Elma's proposed resolution to create a "closed session."

This proposed "closed session" violates the Open Public Meetings Act. A "closed session" is not even close to being legal.

TNT Editorial on Yousoufian

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News-Tribune describes the horrors of the Yousoufian case and how the Supreme Court's ruling only emboldens public agencies to do more of the same.

Monday, April 5, 2010

They Work For Us

This piece by Bill Will of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association is dynamite.

Here is our favorite part:
"The result? Too often, it's secret (and illegal) meetings out of earshot of dissenting voices and stubborn refusals to turn over documents to curious constituents. Don't like it? Sue us. And, oh, we'll be represented in court by a lawyer your tax dollars are paying for. You're free to hire counsel on your own dime."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Attorney General: Bungled Records Requests Cost Taxpayers ... And That's Terrible

UPDATE: The Attorney General modified his blog post, which was criticized below. The new version captures what we believe to be Rob McKenna's view of open government. The revised blog post is here. Our old posting about the old version of his blog is below. We thank the Attorney General for clarifying his view on this.

Attorney General Rob McKenna writes this blog piece in which he makes the point that, whether intentional or not, a state or local government's failure to provide public records costs taxpayers a lot.

A fair point. The blog piece goes on to advocate for an optional administrative board to keep these cases out of court, which would lower the cost to taxpayers. So far, so good.

But then the piece implies that records requestors get big payouts from harmless staff mistakes and that the Public Records Act is some kind of lotto for requestors. This hostility to the enforcement mechanisms of the Public Records Act has been building for some time at the Attorney General's Office.

After describing the Harold Carey case, in which Mason County intentionally treated Carey's requests as spam and did not respond to them and then had to pay $150,000 for not even trying to comply with the law, the Attorney General writes: "Carey won $150,000 in fees and fines. Not bad for 'spam' but not such a good deal for Mason County taxpayers."

Harold Carey, a client of Allied Law Group, spent years litigating that case and it cost him far more than the $150,000 he was eventually awarded. He had to sell some land to pay for the case--he had to sell his land because Mason County blatantly violated the law. But he is the bad guy. After losing the case, and therefore no longer subject to penalties, Mason County magically "found" 20,000 pages of public records that were responsive to his request and therefore didn't have to pay an extra dime.

Not bad for not even trying to comply with the law but not such a good deal for Mason County citizens who want their government to follow the law.

The Caste System for Public Records Requestors

This piece from Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center analyzes the fact that now, for the first time ever, there are two classes of public records requestors: the media and everyone else. HB 1317 allows the media (only) to obtain certain police-related records.

This is not an attack on the media; far from it. The media, we know from first-hand knowledge, didn't want to be treated differently than the public when it came to obtaining police records in HB 1317. But the media was given a choice by legislators: only you can get the records or no one can. So the media chose to get the records.

This caste system of public records requestor sets a horrible precedent. We hope this class distinction is eliminated in the next legislative session. We suspect the media will be urging a return to equal access to public records.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spokane Open Meetings Issues on Real Estate

The Spokesman-Review writes this story on the City of Spokane's executive session on a real estate matter involving the YMCA, one that apparently does not involve a purchase price.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group is quoted in the article:
Since the city owns the Y and the bids have been made public, using real
estate to justify closure of the meeting may be questionable, said Greg
Overstreet, the former open government ombudsman for the state attorney
general’s office.

“You can’t close a meeting just because real estate is involved,”
Overstreet said. “There are several important requirements other than just the
topic being real estate.”

Here are the requirements in addition to the topic being real estate (see items (b) and (c)).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

! Yousoufian Decided !

The Supreme Court issued its long-awaited final decision in the Yousoufian case on Public Records Act Penalties. A 5-4 decision. The penalty awarded was $45 per day out of a possible range of between $5 and $100 per day.

The conduct of the agency at issue, King County, was atrocious. Without recounting all the facts, suffice it to say the King County spent years lying to the requestor and not providing the records.

The Court ruled that a trial court should decide where to start the daily penalty analysis, that is the dollar figure to start at and then either increase or decrease the amount from there. Several newspapers filed an amicus brief, written primarily by Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard, suggesting a starting point of $52.50, the median between $5 and $100. The Court rejected the $52.50 median starting point.

The Court then laid out the following factors for decreasing a penalty: (1) a lack of clarity in the request, (2) the agency's prompt response or legitimate follow-up inquiry for clarification, (3) the agency's good faith, honest, timely, and strict compliance with the PRA, (4) proper training and supervision of agency staff, (5) the reasonableness of any explanation for noncompliance by the agency, (6) the helpfulness of the agency to the requestor, and (7) the existence of agency systems to track and retrieve public records.

The factors for increasing a penalty are: (1) a delayed response by the agency, especially in circumstances making time of the essence, (2) lack of strict compliance by the agency with all the PRA's requirements, (3) lack of proper training and supervision of agency staff, (4) unreasonableness of any explanation for noncompliance by the agency, (5) negligent, reckless, wanton, bad faith, or intentional noncompliance by the agency, (6) agency dishonesty, (7) the public importance of the issue to which the request is related, to the extent the importance is foreseeable to the agency, (8) any actual economic loss to the requestor, where the loss was foreseeable to the agency, and (9) a penalty amount necessary to deter future misconduct by the agency, considering the size of the agency and the facts of the case.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Alexander and signed by Justices Charles Johnson, Chambers, Jim Johnson, and Judge Dean Morgan (a substitute justice).

The dissent was written by Justice Susan Owens and signed by Chief Justice Madsen, Justice Fairhurst, and Judge Karen Seinfeld (a substitute justice).

Justices Sanders and Stephens did not participate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

DUI Police Report on State Official Not Released

The City of Orting, where state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn was apparently arrested for DUI, will not release a copy of the police report on the incident. Dorn has been charged. The City wants to give Dorn a chance to contest the release.

Once the matter has been referred to a prosecutor (as it has here), the law provides a presumption that the material must be released.

UPDATE: Here is an editorial from The (Tacoma) News-Tribune on the ridiculous delay in providing the public records of the Dorn arrest.

A Constitutional Amendment to Make the Legislative Process Transparent

This blog piece from Jason Schrader of The (Tacoma) News-Tribune looks at a proposal to let the public actually know what the Legislature is voting on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Senate Majority Leader: "Problem? What Problem?" on Transparency in Legislative Process

After introducing title-only bills (bills that say "An act relating to ..." and that's it; no substance in the bill) and passing them without public hearings, the Senate Majority leader said there was no transparency problem with the legislative process.

Thanks to Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center for raising this issue when no one else cared.

Governor Denies Public Records Request for Her State Budget Proposal


Why should people get to see these kinds of things anyway? Nosy citizens. Don't they know their place?

Sunshine Committee Discusses Open-Gov't Constitutional Amendment

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center writes this about today's debate in the Sunshine Committee on a proposed amendment to the state constitution to require open government.

The proposal was for discussion only; it has not been introduced in the Legislature.

New King County Executive "Reaffirms His Committment to Public Records"

We've heard this before from elected officials of all stripes. We'll see.

As usual, og-blog gives elected officials the benefit of the doubt and cheers them on when they follow open-government laws. When they don't, we let you know.

Federal Reserve Must Release Bailout Records

A significant victory for openness.

Reporter Threatened with Jail for Reporting on Public Record

It was a "misunderstanding." They always are.

Monday, March 22, 2010

UPDATED: A Judge Who Gets It

Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Edwards decided a Public Records Act case recently. His ruling from the bench thoroughly captures everything about the Act and shows why this law is so important.

UPDATE: Evergreen Freedom Foundation spotlights Judge Edwards' ruling on their blog, Liberty Live.

Initiative Needed

Peter Callaghan of The (Tacoma) News-Tribune writes this column in which he describes why it will take an initiative to fix the open-government problems we have now.

He is right.

We know some people who would write it for free. All we need is 250,000 or so signatures.

Op-Ed on Passing Laws in the Dark

This op-ed by Brandon Housekeeper of the Washington Policy Center appeared in The (Everett) Herald.

Given the hijinks in DC, it shouldn't come as a surprise that our state is also suffering from the same problem of excluding the public from lawmaking.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Names of Bailout Execs Secret

Another reason why FOIA is so worthless: The names of executives at companies who negotiated bailouts are being withheld.

Federal Agency Wants Over $100,000 for Records

This is one of the reasons why FOIA is so much worse than Washington's Public Records Act.

Legislature SLAPPs Those Attempting to Silence Free Speech

A strategic lawsuit against public participation ("SLAPP") is a case filed by someone attempting to silence a critical person or group who is exercising their First Amendment rights.

Since 1989, Washington had a decent anti-SLAPP statute, RCW 4.24.510, on the books.

But it just got better with the passage of SB 6395 a few days ago. It awaits the Governor's signature, which should not be a problem.

The bill creates a speedy procedure for a person to test whether a suit is indeed an unlawful SLAPP suit and provides a winning party their attorneys' fees and $10,000. Here is the final bill report summarizing the new law. This should knock out SLAPP suits before they do their intended job: costing people lots in legal costs for merely exercising their First Amendment rights.

Editorial on Obama's FOIA Record

The (Longview) Daily News writes this editorial on President Obama's less than stellar record on improving the time it takes to get federal records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Attorney General's Crosscut Piece on Efficient Public Records Cases

Attorney General Rob McKenna writes this op-ed in Crosscut urging the passage of a bill to create an administrative board as an option requestors have to resolve public records disputes more quickly and cheaply.

This would be great.

Washington Coalition for Open Gov't Releases 2009 Annual Report

WCOG's annual report is out. One of the few groups that we can say is worthy of your support.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Did Oak Harbor Violate Open Public Meetings Act?

This article from the Seattle P-I discusses whether the City of Oak Harbor violated the Open Public Meetings Act by providing a notice of a special meeting for a committee of the City Council--but then the whole council met (except for one council member who was concerned about violating the law).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Allied Law Group Facebook Updates

Believe it or not, og-blog has only a fraction of the good open-government links that we come across.

Allied Law Group's Facebook page has even more. You can become a Facebook fan of Allied Law Group and get them automatically.

And, once you're a Facebook fan of Allied Law Group, you can become a Facebook friend of other like-minded people.

Monday's Sunshine Week Editorials and Stories

Here they are:

It's Sunshine Week!

This is national Sunshine Week, which highlights open-government issues.

You will see tons of editorials and news stories this week about open government.

Here is a blog piece on Sunshine Week by Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Judge Orders Release of Grays Harbor Audit of Planning Department

The (Aberdeen) Daily World and The (Montesano) Vidette requested records about an independent audit of the Grays Harbor Planning and Building Department. The audit was critical of the department's operations so the union representing department employees filed suit to block disclosure.

It didn't work. The judge ordered the records to be released.

And here are the records.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group represented The Daily World and The Vidette.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sunshine Committee Lives

This dispatch from Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center: "The House passed the amended version of HB 2617 last night – the bill does not eliminate the Sunshine Committee. Since the Senate previously adopted a bill that all kept the Sunshine Committee, it should be in the clear."

Arizona School District Sues to Prevent Records Requests


You can be aggressive like this and sue people when, like the school district, your legal bills are paid with other people's money.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Supreme Court Hears Yakima Herald-Republic Case on Attorney Billing Records

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Yakima Herald-Republic's case to obtain public defender billing records that show how $2 million was spent on one case.

The Yakima Herald-Republic's story on the oral argumenet is here and the AP's is here. Background on the case is here.

Video of the oral argument is here. It is an amazing argument.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group argued the case on behalf of the newspaper.

Did Bellevue Violate the Open Public Meetings Act?

A majority of the Bellevue City Council apparently worked together on a letter to a transit agency regarding City business, reports Publicola.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunshine Committee Lives

This comes from Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center: "House Ways and Committee just adopted this amendment offered by Rep. Kessler to retain the state’s Sunshine Committee. The amendment passed unanimously."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Most Transparent Legislature Ever?

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center is on fire about the games the Legislature is playing to ram through controversial bills without any chance for the public to participate.

Sunshine Committee Might Live

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center reports: "The House Ways and Means Committee is taking executive action on the board elimination bill this morning. Rep. Kessler has offered this amendment to restore the Sunshine Committee."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

State: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune writes a fabulous editorial on how state officials claim to be all for the Open Public Meetings Act and Public Records but ...
The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this story about the newspaper's public records request for attorney billing records showing how $2 million was spent in a publicly-financed case.

NOTE: Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard will be arguing the case for the Yakima Herald-Republic on March 9, 2010 in the state Supreme Court. TVW will cover it and will have the video online after the argument.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Massive Number of Public Records Requests for Slain Lakewood Officers' Personal Information? Not One. Pathetic Scare Mongering.

After four Lakewood police officers were murdered in a coffee shop, public sympathy was (understandably) sky high. Seizing the opportunity, a lobbyist for a police organization testified to the Legislature that the City of Lakewood was "barraged" with public records requests for the victims' personal information, including the birth dates and Social Security numbers of their children. The solution was a new exemption from public disclosure.

Cop-killing stalkers trying to track down the slain officers' children? That would be horrible.

And a total lie.

Lakewood only received one public records request for the information (from the coffee shop's insurance company).

This is pathetic scare mongering. Trying to make government less accountable by using dead police officers and their children. This needs to stop.

Grays Harbor Newspapers File Suit to Obtain Report

The (Aberdeen) Daily News and The (Montesano) Vidette filed suit to obtain a report by independent auditors which is very critical of the Grays Harbor County Planning and Building Department. A department employee and employees' union have filed suit to block disclosure.

NOTE: Allied Law Group represents The Daily World and The Vidette in this case.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Seattle Puts City Data on the Web, Increases Trust from Citizens

This Crosscut piece describes how the City of Seattle, which is under new management, has put City data on the web and how people are able to be more trusting of government when it's open.

If you've ever asked, "What's in it for government with all this openness stuff?" the answer is "trust from the people who pay the bills and elect the leaders." That's a pretty good thing that government gets out of openness.

It's just weird that so many government officials don't get this.

Seattle Times Editorial: "Privacy Bill's Misguided Symbolism"

This editorial is great.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Judge Rejects Governor's Claim of "Executive Privilege"

Wow. This is big news.

Grays Harbor County Employees Attempt to Block Release of Critical Report

The (Aberdeen) Daily World writes this story on a public records case to obtain a report critical of a county department.

NOTE: Allied Law Group represents The Daily World and another newspaper requestor, The Vidette, in this case.

Kitsap Sun Editorial on Bremerton School Board's Open Meetings

This editorial describes the new school board members who pledge to be more open--and then have secret meetings before they are sworn in and therefore were not yet subject to the Open Public Meetings Act.

"Symbolic" Police Public Records Bill Poised to Pass

Well, if it doesn't really do anything, and is just "symbolic," then why pass it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Publicola Piece on Seattle's Claim That Texts Are Not "Public Records"

Publicola has a great piece on why the (techo-savvy and ultra hip) City of Seattle needs to get into the 2010s and realize that texts are a "public record."

Thanks to Ms. Shmackenberry for sending this to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allied Law Group on Facebook

We wanted to let you know that Allied Law Group has a really good Facebook page. We provide links to state and national open-government stories there. In fact, our Facebook page contains lots of links to national stories that we don't put on og-blog. We try to keep og-blog focused on Washington state, with occasional forays into national issues.

So check out our Facebook page and sign up to be a fan.

If you don't have a Facebook account, you won't be able to use our Facebook page. You can sign up for Facebook (it's free) here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

City of Seattle: Texts Not a "Public Record"

The City of Seattle (but not the City Attorney's Office) is claiming texts are not a "public record."

Oh, how wrong the City is.

A "public record" is a writing "containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics." RCW 42.56.010(2).

In turn, a "writing" is: "handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including, but not limited to, letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents including existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated." RCW 42.56.010(3) (emphasis added).

The City may not be retaining the texts, but they should be.

Grays Harbor County Withholds/Delays Audit Report

Parts of an audit report of the Grays Harbor Planning Department is being withheld by the County and release of the rest of it is being delayed reports The (Aberdeen) Daily World.

City of Everett Adopts New Open Meetings Procedures

The City of Everett is, at least on paper, trying to be more open in its decision making.

We will take them at their word, but we will also let you know if they don't follow through.

City of Tacoma Settles Open Meetings Suit by Paper

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune sued the City of Tacoma over a decision made in a closed-to-the-public executive session.

And won.

Some States Considering Ban on Releasing 911 Recordings

States like Alabama, Ohio, and Wisconsin are considering legislation to ban the release of 911 recordings.

Bad idea. The public learns a great deal about how its government is operating--or not--by having these recordings. Like the times a victim makes multiple calls to 911, law enforcement doesn't show up, and the victim is killed. Gruesome as it is, we need to know these things so we can make sure it doesn't happen to someone else. No records, no accountability.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Constitutional Sunshine

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center writes this blog piece on constitutional sunshine.

Seattle Times Editorial on Killing HB 1317 and SB 6747

The Seattle Times writes this editorial on why HB 1317 (withholding law enforcement photos) and SB 6747 (excessive fees for access to DNR information) should not be passed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Special records access for media? No thanks"

We wondered which newspaper would be the first to editorialize against the trend this legislative session of attempting to close off access to public records to everyone but the media.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune is the first. A great editorial.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympian Editorial on Transit Video Bill

Wow, the first sentence of this editorial in The Olympia is true.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bill to Make Transit Videos Public

Caleb Hannan of the Seattle Weekly blogs about a bill to make some transit videos public. Sort of. Available to the media only.

This is an example of what those videos show. Guards watching as a girl is beaten.

Senate Passes Bill to Make Initiative Petitions Public

Jason Schrader of The (Tacoma) News-Tribune blogs about the Senate's passage of the bill to make it clear that signed initiative petitions are subject to disclosure.

Spokesman-Review Editorial on HB 1317 (Cop Photo Bill)

The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review writes this editorial on HB 1317's passage in the House.