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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arlington Fights Felon Records Requestor

This (Everett) Herald story describes why the City of Arlington will spend thousands of dollars to avoid paying a convicted felon a $500 settlement in a Public Records Act case.

Friday, January 27, 2012

AZ Gov. Letter to President--Not a Public Record?

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, wrote a handwritten letter to President Obama on her gubernatorial letterhead. Apparently the letter is "feisty" (we don't care about the politics of the letter).

The USA Today story says:

"When The Arizona Republic requested a copy, Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, said no copies existed and the letter was 'personal, handwritten' correspondence not subject to open-records laws."

To the credit of Gov. Brewer's staff, they released a copy when they found out a copy had been made.

Oh, come on. A governor in a political dispute with the President doesn't make a copy of a letter she gives the President? Really? No one made a copy? It seems that Gov. Brewer's staff "found" the copy only when people found it about the letter.

We run into this often where an agency claims it doesn't possess a record that common sense would indicate it would possess.

Hat tip to KMac for this story.

When The Arizona Republic requested a copy, Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, said no copies existed and the letter was "personal, handwritten" correspondence not subject to open-records laws.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FBI Hiding FOIA Documents

This explains a lot. It describes the FBI's apparent practice of "blacklisting" requested records and not providing them.

Hat tip to Jim for sending this to us.

SB 6351: Terrible, Terrible Bill

Just as we predicted, government agencies would attempt to amend RCW 42.56.565, the statute allowing a court order to prevent an agency from responding to an inmate's public records request, and then apply it to ... any public records request.

They did it. They have introduced SB 6351.

That's right: requestors like you are just like inmates under this bill.

Attorney General Rob McKenna will hopefully oppose SB 6351.

Olympian Editorial on Need to Record Executive Sessions

This editorial from The Olympian describes why the Legislature should pass SB 6109.

HB 2572: Requiring PRA and OPMA Training for State and Local Gov'ts

This is a great idea.

State Auditor's Office Website on Local Gov't Finances

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center posts this about a new website provided by the State Auditor's Office to allow citizens to easily find out about the finances of local governments.

Very cool.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Columbian Editorial on Open Gov't in 2012 Legislative Session

The (Vancouver) Columbian writes this editorial on the upcoming 2012 legislative session.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

SB5355: Real Notice of Special Meetings

Here's a good bill that might actually be getting some action in the Senate: SB 5355.

It requires notice of special meetings by, among other things, posting notice on the agency's web site.

HB 2340 to Prevent Disclosure of Records for "Commerical Purposes"

HB 2340 is a bad bill. It prevents the disclosure of any public records that will be used for a "commercial purpose." You know, like reporters getting public records, reporting on government, and thereby selling newspapers.


SB 6109 to Exempt Executive Session Recordings

Normally we're not huge fans of exemptions from disclosure here at og-blog.

This might be an exception. Senate Bill 6109 exempts video and audio recordings of closed-to-the-public executive sessions of otherwise open public meetings. This is so municipalities (and the few state agencies subject to the OPMA) will record them. Without this exemption those recordings are subject to disclosure.

But the saving grace of SB 6109 is that a municipality may waive the exemption. This would be done when, for example, an illegal executive session occurred. The recording would be the proof that something happened in the executive session that violated the Open Public Meetings Act. A majority of the municipality's governing body must authorize the waiver of the exemption, which probably wouldn't happen too often. But it could, theoretically, happen. This is better than the current situation in which no municipalities record their executive sessions.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Federal Court Rejects Texas Legislature's Claim of Legislative Privilege

Interesting. Legislative privilege is sometimes used by the Washington House and Senate to withhold public records.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

City of Seattle Sues Attorney Making Public Records Request

The City of Seattle--not widely known as a haven of open government--sued an attorney who made a public records request. The City says that it is caught between two conflicting laws and wants court guidance on what to do. The attorney thinks its retaliation.