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Monday, August 31, 2009

Newspapers Filing Fewer Public Records Lawsuits

This New York Times article chronicles something we've noticed for a long time: fewer newspapers are filing suit to enforce open-government laws.

And government agencies know it. Some are counting on getting free passes to not provide records.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

UPDATED: Port of Port Angeles Accused of Violating Open Meetings Act

Ah, the old "narrowing down the pool of candidates in executive session" situation.

The Open Public Meetings Act prohibits the Port of Port Angeles from deciding who to hire in a closed-to-the-public executive session. But they narrowed down the pool of candidates for the Port's CEO job from 22 to 1. Going from 22 to 1 seems like a decision. When you narrow down, say, which of 22 cars you want to buy to 1, most normal people would call that a "decision."

The Port commissioners voted unanimously in an open session--without any discussion in the open session--to offer the job to the 1. A unanimous decision without any discussion but "no decision was previously made"? Wow. A bunch of politicians coming to a unanimous decision without any discussion on which of 22 people to hire? Theoretically possible but not terribly likely. A room full of politicians could debate for hours what to order for lunch.

The story is detailed in the Peninsula Daily News.

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

UPDATE: Here is a news story with more details of what happened.

Federal Reserve Must Disclose

A New York District Court judge has ruled that the Federal Reserve must disclose records about emergency loans it made.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Counties' Insurance Company Won't Cover Public Records Claims

This is big news.

This letter indicates that the county insurance pool will no longer cover Public Records Act claims by counties when they get sued.

This is probably because some counties, like Jefferson County, made some questionable decisions and got sued, like by claiming the "pizza privacy exemption."

So if you're suing a county for a Public Records Act violation, the county might be on the hook itself for the money (fees and penalties awarded to you and the county's own defense costs).

This might actually encourage sensible settlements by counties. Funny how making people pay the costs of their own actions makes them a little more careful. (Of course, when counties pay for their actions, it's with your tax money. But even this seems more like "their" money than insurance money.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Morgan v. City of Federal Way--Victory for Open Gov't

The Supreme Court issued its decision today in Morgan v. City of Federal Way, which involved a municipal judge trying to prevent the disclosure of a report on his alleged misconduct.

The requestor, the (Tacoma) News Tribune, won.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TNT Blasts Governor Over "Executive Privilege" For Public Records

The (Tacoma) New Tribune writes this editorial about Governor Gregoire initially claiming "executive privilege" to withhold public records.

The editorial describes other cases involving these so-called privileges.

Thanks to Mike Reitz and his Facebook page for alerting us to this one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Both Sides of the Debate on Releasing R-71 Signatures

Should the signatures of those signing R-71, the referendum that would prohibit gay marriage, be released as public records?

Both sides are thoughtfully and civilly debated in this Seattle Times piece.

Center for Justice Wins Public Records Case Against Spokane County

The Spokesman-Review reports that the Center for Justice beat Spokane County in a Public Records Act case. Interesting read.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Governor and "Executive Privilege"

The Governor's Office will turn over records to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation about a climate change executive order after first claiming, then retracting, "executive privilege" and deliberative process as exemptions from disclosure.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Candidates Respond to Open Gov't Questionaire

The Seattle Post-Globe (yes, the Post-Globe) has this Jason Mercier piece on candidates responding to an open government questionnaire.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Database of Medical Errors

This P-I article looks at the efforts to get a publicly accessible database showing medical errors. It is a good look at how hard it is to get anything good done in Olympia.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

UPDATE: City of Kirkland's Public Records Request Form Illegal?

Piper Scott at EFF's blog writes about the City of Kirkland's public records request form, which asks (as an "optional" inquiry) why the requestor wants the records and what the requestor intends to do with the records.

That pesky Public Records Act provides (emphasis added): "Agencies shall not distinguish among persons requesting records, and such persons shall not be required to provide information as to the purpose for the request [with an exception for commercial use of records]."

We'll be watching this one.

UPDATE: Well, the City of Kirkland did the right thing and changed its public records request form in response to a letter from Tim Ford, the Attorney General's Open Government Ombudsman. Kudos to EFF's blog for bringing some attention to this.

See, we highlight good governmental behavior whenever possible.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Susan Hutchison/KIRO Court Records Released

A King County Superior Court judge ordered the release of previously sealed court records in King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison's lawsuit against her former employer, KIRO TV.

NOTE: Allied Law Group's Michele Earl-Hubbard represented the Seattle Times and other news organizations seeking release of the records.

Wenatchee Open Government Forum

The Wenatchee World reports on an open government forum held there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009