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Monday, December 19, 2011

Port of Longview Admits Open Meetings Violation

This article from The (Longview) Daily News describes an admitted OPMA violation by the Port of Longview.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Retiring Justice Alexander's Open-Gov't Record

This piece by Karen Peterson at the Tacoma News-Tribune described retiring state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander's record on open government.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Editorial on How Agency Is Reacting to Large Request

This editorial from the Tri-City Herald describes how one large request is affecting an agency. Interesting.

Hat tip to Ramsey for this story.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seattle Police Must Pay $129,000 in Public Records Act Case

This comes from the Seattle Times.

Hat tip to John for sending this to us. How did we miss this?

DSHS Ordered to Pay $650,000 in Public Records Act Case

Wow. The biggest judgment ever, as far as we know.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

AP Study of Open Gov't In Other Countries

A very interesting Associated Press piece on how other countries approach open government.

If you think the US is better than other countries, consider this from the article. When the AP made the same records request to various countries:

"Guatemala sent all documents in 10 days, and Turkey in seven. By comparison, Canada asked for a 200-day extension, and the FBI in the United States responded six months late with a single sheet with four dates, two words and a large blanked section."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Signatures of Bellingham Traffic Light Initiative Released

The Bellingham Herald reports on the release of signers of a local initiative concerning traffic lights.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"How To Obtain Public Records" Now Available

The Washington Coalition for Open Government continues its excellent work with its guide, "How to Obtain Public Records" from state and local agencies.

You can click on the name of the agency from which you are seeking records and find that agency's answers to a WCOG survey on how that agency provides records, including how to send in a request to that agency.

Quorum of Port Commissioners Go on Trip ... And Don't Talk About Agency Business

This article from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin discusses the problem of a quorum of a public body going on a trip (in this case, to Arizona). They cannot discuss agency business or it would be a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.

It's possible that they did not discuss agency business, as they assert, but it undermines the public's trust in them by having to believe that they spent days together and never talked about the one thing they have in common: agency business.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Public Records Show ... Parking Tickets Get Fixed

A New York newspaper had to sue to get records about parking tickets that got "fixed."

After going to the Court of Appeals, the newspaper got its attorney fees reimbursed.

This is what it takes to expose corruption. It's also why awarding attorney fees is so vital.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Proposed FOIA Rule Would Let Gov't Claim Records Don't Exist ... When They Do Exist


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

P.S. The Obama administration--the transparency people--are the ones proposing this hideous rule.

Hat tip to Jim for sending this story.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Op-Ed on Seattle Police Records

Prof. Tomas Guillen writes this op-ed in the Seattle Times on the Seattle Police Department's public records practices regarding incident reports.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dep't of Licensing Hiding Records on State Cash to Tribes

The Washington State Wire writes this story on how the Department of Licensing is withholding documents about how much state money Indian tribes receive from distributions of gas taxes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FOIA Challenges up 27%

This is interesting from the FOIA Project. Court challenges to obtain documents from federal agencies under FOIA are up 27%.

Wasn't the Obama Administration going to be so much more transparent than the previous administration?

Hat tip to Jim for sending this story.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Public Records Show ... Alleged Corruption of Rainier Nat'l Parks

The Seattle Times reports on a fishy land deal between the official running Mt. Rainier National Park and a vendor.

How do we know about this? You guessed it:

"Details of the questionable land deal came to light only recently — through Seattle Times federal public-records requests in 2010 that eventually produced several hundred pages of redacted documents."

Friday, September 30, 2011

News Stories on Big Neighborhood Alliance Court Victory

The Seattle Times writes this story.

NOTE: The Seattle Times story quotes Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group, who filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in the case on behalf of the records requestor.

The Spokesman-Review writes this.

The Bellingham Herald writes this.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Neighborhood Alliance: Big Win for Open Gov't

The state Supreme Court decided the Neighborhood Alliance case today. We're still digesting the full meaning of the case, but it's good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep't: New PRA Case

A pretty significant Public Records Act case was decided by the Court of Appeals.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group was co-counsel for the requestor.

Here is how the court summarized the holding:

This case is brought under the Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW. The chief issue is whether a request for public records has indefinite effect, such that after an agency has responded to a request, it must monitor the status of all records within the request and disclose any that later become subject to disclosure. We must also decide whether the categorical exemption for records of an open and active law enforcement investigation terminated at the point of the last witness interview; whether the open and active investigation exemption applies to internal police disciplinary records; whether certain redactions to the disclosures
made here were justified; and what penalties and fees are appropriate.

We hold that there is no standing request under the PRA. We also hold the
statutory exemption for records of an open and active law enforcement investigation
does not end with the final witness interview; the open and active exemption applies
to police disciplinary investigation records; certain redactions from the records were
not justified; the statutory maximum penalty is not appropriate where there is no
showing of gross negligence, bad faith, or other improper conduct; and Sargent’s fees
were improperly limited.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

KOMO TV Sues Seattle Police Department Over Access to Dash Cam Video

Bravo, KOMO.

This is exactly what news organizations need to do. More often. The government agencies withholding public records know that you don't sue very much. They count on it.

Good for you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Bad News from the "Open Gov't" Obama Administration

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has taken down a public database of problem physicians nationwide. The database had been available since 1986.

Hat tip to a friend of og-blog for sending this story to us.

Monday, September 12, 2011

State Auditor Brian Sonntag to Retire after 2012

Wow. The open government community is losing a very, very serious ally.

Enjoy your retirement, Brian. You've earned it.

Wash. Coalition for Open Gov't Award Goes to Sen. Honeyford

The Washington Coalition for Open Government announced Sen. Jim Honeyford received a Key Award this year. Congratulations.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Court Rules on Electronic Records Issue

The Mitchell decision came out today. Here is the court's synopsis of the case:

Kevin Mitchell made a Public Records Act (PRA) request to the
Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and asked for the requested records to be
disclosed electronically. The DOC responded that it would not disclose the records electronically
because redactions would be necessary to protect information that was exempt from disclosure.
Mitchell filed suit claiming that the agency (1) improperly denied access to records without
providing an exemption statement, and (2) was required to disclose the records electronically.
The trial court ruled in favor of the DOC on both claims. We reverse and remand to the trial
court on Mitchell’s first claim, holding that the DOC violated the PRA by failing to provide an
exemption statement with its response denying access to the records in part. We affirm on
Mitchell’s second claim, holding that the DOC was not required to disclose the records
electronically. We award attorney fees on appeal to Mitchell for that portion attributable to theclaim on which he prevailed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Olympian Editorial on Sunshine Committee

This editorial from The Olympian describes the probable demise of the Sunshine Committee. Gov. Gregoire, on behalf of local government, appointed anti-openness members and doomed the Sunshine Committee from the beginning.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Executive Privilege Case

The Freedom Foundation has sued Gov. Gregoire to obtain records withheld by the Governor's Office on "executive privilege" grounds. This case will set the parameters of "executive privilege."

The (Everett) Herald writes an editorial describing why the records need to be turned over.

This piece from Karen Peterson, Executive Editor of The (Tacoma) News Tribune, similarly describes the danger of a governor having the ability to make records secret.

West v. Dep't of Nat. Resources--New Public Records Act Case

Here is the case.

Here is the summary provided by the court of the holding:

"Arthur West appeals from a trial court order that the Washington
State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not violate the Public Records Act (PRA). ch.
42.56 RCW. West seeks penalties for untimely disclosure and destruction of documents, an
injunction to prevent further destruction of records, and an order authorizing forensic recovery.
West argues that the DNR violated the PRA by (1) not responding to his request in five business
days, (2) destroying and/or delaying production of the public record emails of its chief financial
officer, (3) failing to search diligently for the emails, and (4) improperly exempting documents
from production as either attorney work product or attorney-client privileged. West also argues
that all of the trial court’s findings lack substantial evidence. Holding that the DNR violated the
PRA by not responding to West’s request within five business days, we reverse and remand in part."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunshine Committee Might Be Eliminated

The Olympian reports that the Sunshine Committee's lack of action--because, in og-blog's opinion, the government representatives on the panel have stymied action--might mean that the committee is defunded.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Supreme Court Ruling in (Kim) Koenig v. City of Bainbridge Island

This Seattle Times story describes a ruling on the disclosure of investigations of police officers.

Here is the Supreme Court majority opinion. The concurrence/dissent is here. it is a must-read.

Note: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group filed a "friend of the court" brief in this case arguing for disclosure.

Kim Bradford on Access to Birth Records

This is worth reading.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Medina Sued Over Public Records

The Seattle Weekly has this blog piece on two recent Public Records Act suits against the City of Medina to obtain a report about the firing of a police chief. The former chief and a city council member are bringing the suits.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group represent one of the requestors, Council member Shawn Whitney.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

King County Pays $125,000 to Settle Public Records Case

The Seattle Times reports that King County is settling a Public Records Act case--with some interesting facts--for $125,000.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Congress Might Undo Milner FOIA Ruling

The House of Representatives has voted to exempt from disclosure the information at issue in the recent Milner victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. That case came from Kitsap County.

Tip of the hat to Ramsey Ramerman for pointing out this story.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Open Courts Victory

The Washington Supreme Court handed down its decision in In Re DFF. They held that involuntary mental health commitment proceedings cannot be secret. Think of the mischief that could happen if it were otherwise.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group filed a "friend of the court" brief urging openness.

Monday, July 11, 2011

OG-Pod (Open Government Podcast) Is On the Air!

We are very happy to announce the arrival of OG-Pod. It is hosted by Mike Reitz of the Freedom Foundation and Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group.

Here is the OG-Pod web site. You can subscribe to OG-Pod on iTunes. Very convenient. You can also follow OG-Pod on Facebook.

Listen in and you can hear Greg's golden smooth radio voice.

P.S. Here is a short piece from The Olympian editorial page on OG-Pod's debut (scroll down).

Mercer Island Fined Over $90,000 for Withholding Public Records

The Seattle Times reports on a federal ruling against the City of Mercer Island awarding $90,560 to a records requestor for the City's "negligent, reckless, wanton or intentional noncompliance" with the state Public Records Act.

This is one of the largest penalty awards in the history of the Public Records Act. Usually penalty awards go toward the attorney fees a prevailing requestor is not awarded. That is, penalties usually reduce the losses a requestor has from not obtaining all of his or her attorney fees. (So much for the idea that Public Records Act penalties are a "windfall" for requestors.) This case, after all, took years of litigation in federal court, which isn't cheap.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More on Baby Einstein Case Against UW

This story from Courthouse News Service describes the Baby Einstein Public Records Act case and includes links to documents.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group was co-counsel for the requestor.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

UW Settles Public Records Act Case Over Baby Einstein Study

The Seattle Times reports that the UW settled a Public Records Act case seeking access to the UW data used to call into question the effectiveness of the Baby Einstein children's educational products. The Baby Einstein creators, who wondered why the UW study said their product was bad, asked for the UW's study data. How hard could it be to provide the data in a scientific study?

Pretty hard, apparently. After several years and 18 months of vigorous litigation, the UW finally turned over the study data. However, it looks like the UW has multiple versions of the data, which is not exactly the scientific method. Serious questions have been raised about the UW's anti-Baby Einstein study.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group was co-counsel for the records requestors in this case.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Puyallup and Small-Group Closed Meetings

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News Tribune looks at the issue of small-group closed meetings. That's where less than a quorum of a governing body meets with key staff. And then another group of the governing body does so. And so on. Pretty soon, the whole governing body knows how they want to vote, and they quickly do so in an open meeting. Magic.

Tri-City Herald Editorial on "Executive Privilege" Ruling

This editorial from the Tri-City Herald discusses the recent ruling by a Thurston County Superior Court that the Governor has an "executive privilege" to withhold certain public records.

Richland May Have Violated the Open Public Meetings Act

This story from the Tri-City Herald describes what an OPMA violation looks like.

Friday, June 24, 2011

City Council Meeting (In Small Groups) With City Manager

The age-old issue of sub-quorum groups of a governing body meeting with high-level agency staff. This time it's in Puyallup.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lower Courts Uphold Governor's "Executive Privilege" to Withhold Documents

This will go to the state Supreme Court for sure. But two lower courts have ruled against disclosure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seattle Files Suit to Allow Disclosure of Disciplined Police Officers' Names

The City of Seattle, not known as a paragon of open government, has filed suit to overturn a labor arbitrator's ruling that the City's union contract prevents the release of names of police officers who have been disciplined.

The arbitrator's ruling will be overturned. People cannot enter into contracts to violate a law and then say, "I would follow the law, but that means I would break my contract. So, sorry. I can't follow the law."

The City of Seattle is doing the right thing. (It felt weird to write that.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Story of Getting Public Records

The (Everett) Herald writes this on their efforts to obtain public records in a criminal case.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Public Records Show ... Number of Federal Limos Soars

From public records, we learn that there has been a 73% increase in the number of federal limousines purchased by the federal government since President Obama took office.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Example of Why Open Meetings Matter

Peter Callaghan at The (Tacoma) News Tribune writes this piece on a controversy about digital billboards in Tacoma and open meetings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Here is a piece from Peter Callaghan of The (Tacoma) News Tribune about a decision to move the location of an open meeting--a decision apparently not made in an open meeting.

"Open-records law violators now face fines as low as $0"

Here is a blog piece by Scott North of The (Everett) Herald regarding the $0 penalty. Very nicely done. The title of the piece says it all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medical Pot Bill Has Public Records Exemption

Sigh. Why do so many pieces of legislation have secrecy clauses in them?

SB 5955 is about medical marijuana. However, the bill has a provision making the names of medical marijuana providers exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.

Is there some concern that medical marijuana providers will be burned out of their clinics by mobs of violent anti-pot crusaders? We've never actually seen any.

It is vital for the public, especially the media, to be able to know who medical marijuana providers are to see if they are legitimate or rather just selling marijuana without regard to medical condition.

The bill is now being considered in committee.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Armageddon Averted: Public Records Act Penalties Now As Low As $0

(Pardon the sarcasm, but some things are so absurd that there is no other way to communicate them.)

A financial melt down of state and local government has been averted.

The local government lobby and Attorney General Rob McKenna finally got what they said would prevent the world from ending: a possible $0 Public Records Act daily penalty instead of the whopping $5 daily penalty usually assessed against them. No more defaulting on municipal bonds as a result of public records penalties. Whew.

HB 1899 was signed into law by Gov. Gregoire, another staunch supporter of open government. Here is the Seattle Times story on it. And a Bellingham Herald piece on it.

Now the government lobby should no longer have any reason to complain about the Public Records Act destroying civilization.

By the way, HB 1899 passed out of the House without a hearing on its merits. More excellent law making. Here is what Jason Mercier from the Washington Policy Center had to say about it, with a hat tip to the Center for Justice:

For the rest of the story on HB 1899:

As the executive session ended, the Committee’s chairman, Democrat Sam Hunt from Thurston County, appeared confused. After a long pause in which he conferred with a staff person, Hunt apologetically announced: “House bill 1899 has not had a hearing, so if somebody wants to testify on 1899, you will get the option to do it in a backwards fashion, after we voted the bill out of committee and if one convinces us, we can always reconsider and re-vote on it. Sorry about that.”

Here is the TVW of the exchange:

Starts at 56:20 with staff informing him they didn’t hold a hearing before passing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fabulous TNT Editorial on Public Records Hutzpah

The Yiddish word "hutzpah" describes the gall of someone who, for example, murders their parents and then begs for mercy from a judge because they are an orphan. Hutzpah is using a self-inflicted problem to try and get out of the consequences of it.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune perfectly describes the public records version of hutzpah in this editorial.

Public officials who really dislike transparency will often complain how much time and money it costs them to provide public records. (Well, first of all, providing public records is part of their job and we pay lots of money for them to do it. But anyway.)

The hutzpah is when the complaining officials themselves are the very reason there are so many requests to begin with. They do various questionable things that legitimately raise questions among the public--then when the officials receive public records requests to find out what they're up to, they complain about getting the requests. They should look at their own actions and see if maybe that has something to do with all the requests.

This TNT editorial describes this phenomenon as it relates to the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam. A magnificent editorial.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Public Records Show ... County Assessor-Treasurer Attempted to Oust Employee While Denying Doing So

"Newly disclosed records and emails reveal a fourth investigation critical of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam and indicate he worked in private to oust a high-level employee while publicly claiming he was doing no such thing." So reports The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

How do we know this? " The News Tribune recently obtained records of the investigation via public disclosure."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prison Surveillance Tapes Can Be Withheld

The Court of Appeals ruled that the Department of Corrections can withhold prison surveillance tapes because they are law enforcement investigative records.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Legislature Won't Provide Records on Hasty Resignation

Why did Rep. Jacks suddenly resign from the Legislature? The Legislature won't provide the records about it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TNT Blog Piece on Penalty Bill

Kim Bradford at The (Tacoma) News Tribune writes this blog piece on the penalty bill.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TNT Editorial on Penalties Bill

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News Tribune says it all.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Homeland Security FOIA

The Tri-City Herald writes this editorial on the Department of Homeland Security's past practice of letting political appointees review FOIA requests and, apparently, involving them in the responses.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Op-Ed on Legislative Transparency

Jason Mericer of the Washington Policy Center writes this op-ed in the Seattle Times on the Legislature's woeful lack of transparency.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Important Public Records Act Ruling: City of Lakewood v. Koenig

The City of Lakewood sent aggressive (intimidating?) discovery requests to a public records requestor. The Court of Appeals said that wasn't OK. NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in support of the requestor.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin had this editorial on the Legislature's terribly habit of passing "title only" bills. They are bills that have no text, just a title (like "An act relating to public records disclosure"). Then, after some deal is cut in a back room, the Legislature "amends" the title only bill to add the text of the law the people in the back room decided to pass. No public input, no hearings, no time to consider alternatives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Political Meddling" in Delays of DHS Records

This is interesting.

Large "Anonymous" Request

The Spokesman-Review has this piece on a large "anonymous" request to the Spokane County Assessor.

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Local Gov't Objects to 72-Hour Notice Requirement for Public Meeting Agendas

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center has this update on SB 5553, a bill to require agendas of public meetings to be posted in advance (so the public can know what's going to happen at the meeting).

Based on the House committee Chair's comment, SB 5553, which passed 48-1 in the Senate, will not get out of committee in the house.

Here is the video of the hearing. Local government's opposition to the 72-hour requirement is at the 54:06 mark.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Columbian Article on Big Requests

This piece from The (Vancouver) Columbian examines the problem of a large records request.

The people give state and local government enormous powers and billions of dollars. Spending thousands of dollars responding to an occasional large request is part of the deal. If you don't want the billions, we'll let you keep the thousands ...

Legislative Secrecy: Title Only Bills

The Legislature has a terrible habit of introducing "title only" bills. They just have the title of a bill (like "An act relating to ...") but no actual text. This allows deals to be cut behind closed doors and text to be added to the bill at the last minute. Literally, the last minute. So no one--neither the public nor the minority party--can read it before it's passed.

The Washington Policy Center's Jason Mercier describes why this is a bad way to pass the "people's" laws because it allows the Legislature to do what they want without the "people" getting any say in it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Columbian Editorial on Vancouver's New Open Meeting Rules

This editorial from The (Vancouver) Columbian describes a new rule adopted by the Vancouver City Council on public comments at open meetings.

Oregon Launches Open Gov't Web Site

The State of Oregon has created a web site that it claims allows citizens to see some public records without requesting them.

We've always said that the "burdens" of responding to some public records requests can be alleviated by posting commonly requested records on line.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bill Requiring Agencies to Post Agendas Passes Senate

This piece from the pro-agency Local Open Government Blog describes SSB 5553 which requires agencies to post agendas and minutes of public meetings online. The Local Open Government Blog raises concerns about the bill.

We think the bill is great. You should contact your House representative and urge passage of SSB 5553.

Monday, March 21, 2011

KING 5 Piece "Does Gov't Spend Too Much Time Disclosing Records?"

This is interesting.

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Lower Ruling Stand Requiring Disclosure of Bank Bailout Records

We can now see how hundreds of billions of our dollars were utilized.

Sunshine Week: Wrap Up

Here are some pieces from the end of Sunshine Week:
  • A column by Karen Peterson of The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
  • An op-ed piece by State Auditor Sonntag and Attorney General McKenna in the Tri-City Herald.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sunshine Week: Thursday

A piece from yesterday and today:
  • The Olympian editorial on some bright spots and concerns about recent bills.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunshine Week: Wednesday

Here are the pieces on Sunshine week from yesterday and today:
  • The Washington Post reports that President Obama is receiving an open-government award despite his administration's mixed (some say, poor) record.
  • An editorial from The (Vancouver) Columbian on Sunshine Week.
  • A Seattle Times piece on a Sunshine Week forum in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunshine Week: Tuesday

Here are some items from today and yesterday:
  • Olympian piece on Sunshine Week
  • Washington Coalition for Open Government's award of a Key Award to Gloria Howell, who used public records to uncover alleged corruption by a county official

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunshine Week

It's that time of year. Sunshine week is this week.

It's a national effort. We'll have lots of things up on og-blog this week.

Articles, Editorials, and Op-Eds

Here are the pieces from today and this weekend:
  • AP piece on the horrible bills in the Legislature this year.
  • Jason Mercier's op-ed in the Bellingham Herald and the Wenatchee World on legislative transparency. Here is Mercier's model language for a solution to the problem.
  • Tri-City Herald story on the town of Mesa, nearly bankrupted because of its flagrant Public Records Act violations.
  • Kitsap Sun editorial on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a FOIA case involving records in Kitsap County.
  • Yakima Herald-Republic editorial on Sunshine Week.
  • The (Everett) Herald editorial on legislative transparency and Sunshine Week.
  • AP piece on President Obama's failure to deliver on promises of more openness in the federal government.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Records Show ... School Bus Driver Accused of Past Violence Against Children

The (Everett) Herald has this story, which could only be presented because of access to public records.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kelso Pays $3,336 to Prisoner for Public Records Violation

The (Longview) Daily News reports that a prisoner, who made numerous records requests to the City of Kelso but didn't receive any response, has settled a Public Records Act suit for $3,336.

Before you say, "Prisoners shouldn't get public records let alone $3,336," look at the records he requested. They related to his arrest. If people can't find get records about their own arrest, we're all worse off.

Monday, March 7, 2011

! Big Win in U.S. Supreme Court for Washington State Records Requestor !

Milner v. U.S. Dep't of Navy is out. This is great. The government's attempted misuse of FOIA here was preposterous.

Kudos to Seattle attorney Kathy George for working on this.

Clark County Open Meetings Question

The (Vancouver) Columbian reports on a meeting of two out of three Clark County Commissioners had with Congressmen concerning a transportation project.

The County says that there was no violation of the Open Public Meetings Act because they didn't transact County business. Well, all they need to do is "discuss" County business and it's a meeting subject to the Open Public Meetings Act. Did those Congressmen have a meeting to talk about the weather?

State Auditor's Office Puts Public Records Online

It can be done! Public records available without even asking for them, and without the agency having to spend it's time and money finding them.

The State Auditor's Office is doing so. They are putting up commonly asked for records such as the Seattle Public School District audit.

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Opening Up Congressional Research Service Records

The Spokesman-Review writes this editorial about Congressional Research Service records. They are currently exempt from FOIA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this editorial on the lack of transparency in the Washington Legislature.

Monday, February 28, 2011

City of Vancouver Considering Curbs on Public Testimony at City Council Meetings

The (Vancouver) Columbian has this article on the City of Vancouver's attempts to limit citizen comment at public meetings.

Public Records Show ... County Assessor-Treasurer Resisted Investigation

The (Tacoma) News Tribune has this story on the efforts of the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer to resist an investigation.

How do we know this? Public records.

Monday, February 14, 2011

KUOW Piece on Public Records Case Against Seattle Police

This is the transcript of a KUOW report on a Public Records Act suit against the Seattle Police Department regarding alleged police misconduct against a man named Evan Sargent.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group is assisting Sargent's counsel in the case.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Olympian Editorial on Legislative Transparency

This editorial from the Olympian urges the Legislature to make its decisions in public.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tacoma Asks for Records Back

The City of Tacoma gave a records requestor an unredacted set of records and now wants them back.

TNT Editorial on Administrative Appeals Office

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News Tribune describes why the bill to allow an alternative to litigation in Public Records Act cases makes sense.

Op-Ed Piece on Legislative Transparency

This op-ed by Sen. Randi Becker in The (Tacoma) News Tribune describes why the public should be able to see proposed legislation on taxes and spending before it's passed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not Turning Over Public Records Can Be an Ethics Violation--and Potentially a $5,000 Fine Paid by the Employee

This column by Peter Callaghan at The (Tacoma) News Tribune describes a recent court ruling that RCW 42.52.050(4) of the State Ethics Act actually means what it says, which is:

"No state officer or state employee may intentionally conceal a record if the officer or employee knew the record was required to be released under [the Public Records Act], was under a personal obligation to release the record, and failed to do so. ..."

A violation of this law could lead to a $5,000 fine from the Ethics Board. The offending state employee, not the agency, must pay it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Obama Administration to GOP: Your FOIA Investigation Is Killing Us

The GOP Chair of House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, asked for records on how federal agencies are handling FOIA requests.

The Obama administration responded by saying that Rep. Issa's request would significantly overburden the agencies.

So it's too much work to see how federal agencies are complying--or not--with FOIA? Then that would make actually complying with FOIA way, way too much work.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Open Gov't Laws Fight Corruption in India

This interesting piece comes from the Local Open Government Blog, which is put out by a law firm representing local governments.

It describes India's new open government law and how the poor are using it to fight corruption. One requestor was even murdered for making a request.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebuttal From Gov't Attorney on Inmate Requests

The Spokesman-Review has this rebuttal on inmate requests from a former government attorney.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spokane Records Case in State Supreme Court

This story from the Spokesman-Review describes the Neighborhood Alliance case.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group filed a friend of the court brief in this case for the records requestor.

Seattle Police Withheld Email in Investigation of Shooting

The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Police Department withheld an email from a city council member to the police chief calling for outside review of a controversial shooting of a citizen.

House Adopts Budget "Time Out" Transparency Rule

The good folks at the Washington Policy Center tell us that the state House of Representatives has adopted a budget "time out" rule. It allows 24 hours between the introduction of a budget and a vote.

How the public is supposed to understand hundreds of pages of a budget document in 24 hours is not explained, but it is a small (actually, tiny) step toward transparency.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kitsap Sun Article on Public Records Bills

The Kitsap Sun has this article on the Public Records Act bills in the Legislature this session.

Olympian Editorial on Yakima Case on Legal Invoices

The Olympia writes this editorial on the fantastic 9-0 state Supreme Court victory for open government in the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper's suit to obtain legal invoices showing how $2 million of tax money was spent on the legal defense of two defendants.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group represented the Yakima Herald-Republic in the case. She is quoted in the editorial.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rep. Chris Hursts' Op-Ed Piece on Administrative Appeals for Open Gov't Cases

Rep. Chris Hurst writes this op-ed piece in the Seattle Times on his bill to allow administrative appeals of open government cases.

Spokesman-Review Piece on Restricting Prisoner Access to Records

Jim Camden of the Spokesman-Review writes this piece on the bills to restrict prisoners' access to public records.

Senate Hears Anti-Openness Bills

TVW has this piece on bills to put more hurdles in front of public records requestors.

Friday, January 21, 2011

HB 1034 on Restricting Prisoner Access to Public Records

TVW's Capitol Record reports on the hearing on HB 1034, a bill to restrict prisoner access to public records.

Bill to Create Administrative Appeals for Records Cases Questioned

The Olympian reports on HB 1044, a bill to allow administrative appeals of Public Records Act cases. It would cost a little money and the state doesn't have any.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Case on Paying for Copies of Public Records

If you aren't inspecting records and then tell the agency you won't pay for copies, they don't have to search for responsive records. So holds Gronquist v. Dept' of Corrections.

SB 5088: Allowing Agencies to Charge for "Search Time" to Provide Public Records

SB 5088 is atrocious must be stopped.

It has a companion bill in the House, HB 1300.

Here is a story on the bills in the Kitsap Sun.

There are no hearings planned for these bills. Yet.

Olympian Editorial on Proposal to End Legislative Secrecy

The Olympia writes this editorial on a proposed state constitutional amendment to end the Legislature's current practice of doing its business largely in secret.

The proposed constitutional amendment is based on a proposal by the Washington Policy Center.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(Vancouver) Columbian Editorial on Legislative Secrecy

The (Vancouver) Columbian writes this editorial on legislative secrecy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Online Resource for Newly Elected Officials on Records Retention

The Tri-City Herald writes this on a Secretary of State online resource to teach newly elected officials about records retention requirements. Great work by the Secretary of State's Office.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Centralia Settles Public Records Case

The City of Centralia has settled a Public Records Act case brought by The (Centralia/Chehalis) Chronicle to obtain evaluations of the city manager. The City will $14,650 to newspaper in attorney fees and agrees to all future city manager evaluations.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group represented the newspaper.

Yakima Herald Case is Out

Today the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a records requestor, the Yakima Herald-Republic, in a case. Here is the conclusion to the opinion:

We reaffirm long standing case law and hold that the documents prepared
by court personnel in connection with court cases and maintained by the court are
judicial documents governed by GR 15. Further, we hold that such documents,
when transferred to nonjudicial county entities, are governed by the PRA unless
they are subject to an additional protective order. We also hold that a trial court
has jurisdiction to consider a motion to unseal court documents and is not required
to seek permission from an appellate court pursuant to RAP 7.2 when the sealing
order will not impact a separate decision on appeal, and that a limited intervention
by a third party in a criminal case is a proper procedure after trial has ended. In the
interests of judicial economy, we remand to the trial court to determine whether
continued sealing of these financial documents is proper pursuant to GR 15(e),
given the current posture of the criminal case.

With regard to documents held by nonjudicial branch agencies, we reverse
the trial court and remand for the county to comply with the PRA consistent with
this opinion. Finally, we award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the Herald-Republic but deny daily penalties as premature.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

! SB 5088 Proposes "Search Fees" For Public Records !

If you care about open government, you absolutely must contact your state Senator and ask him or her to oppose Senate Bill 5088.

It does not have a hearing yet. Keep checking this link to see if it gets one. I'm guessing it will because so many anti-open government bills are moving through the Legislature this year.

This is a really big deal.

Attorney General and Auditor Endorse Legislative Transparency Amendment

Attorney General Rob McKenna and State Auditor Brian Sonntag have endorsed a proposed state constitutional amendment to require more transparency in the legislative process. Kudos to both.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spokesman-Review: Best Way to Reduce Records Costs Is to Comply with Law

The Spokesman-Review writes this editorial on the problem of agencies spending a lot on Public Records Act compliance.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Court Awards Sanctions Against Repeat Records Requestor

The Local Open Government Blog, put out by a Seattle law firm representing government agencies, has this write-up of Phillips v. Valley Communications, Inc. In that case, the Court of Appeals upheld monetary sanctions against a records requestor under court rules prohibiting frivolous law suits.