From the Liberal news outlet Crosscut an article on how the government thinks it is above the people with respect to public information requests. Our pols’ response to having to disclose emails and other working documents? “It’s just too much work….” Really? Transparency is too much work?
We at the Sentinel have been working with our Kittitas County Commissioners on transparency issues with varying results. Stay tuned for an update on our efforts.
Washington state lawmakers said they were above public records law. The state Supreme Court just disagreed.
Legislators will no longer be able to withhold documents that show how they’re conducting the public’s business.
~~~12/19/19 | From an article in Crosscut | by Melissa Santos
Washington state legislators have been breaking the law by refusing to release their emails, calendars and other working documents to members of the public, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.
The state Supreme Court affirmed that state lawmakers — just like other public officials — must abide by Washington’s Public Records Act, a transparency measure that Washington voters first approved by citizen initiative in 1972.
The high court’s ruling will force big changes in the way the Legislature conducts its business. While the Public Records Act requires the release of most government records, state lawmakers have long argued that the law doesn’t apply to them.
That interpretation has led to the Legislature withholding a range of documents, including investigations into complaints of sexual misconduct against lawmakers, as well as disciplinary actions taken against them.
Legislators have also withheld less sensitive records, such as copies of their government emails, work-related text messages, and official calendars — documents that other elected officials regularly release.
In a 7-2 ruling, the justices rejected the argument that individual legislators’ offices are not agencies subject to the Public Records Act, a law commonly abbreviated as the PRA.
“If, as the Legislative Defendants argue, individual legislators’ offices were not ‘agencies’ subject to the PRA’s general public records disclosure mandate, then ostensibly neither would be the governor’s office,” nor other executive-branch agencies, wrote Justice Susan Owens in the majority opinion.