Thursday, February 05, 2009

"I say let's roll the dice . . ."

A number of folks have talked about the reluctance of local governments to respond promptly and fully to public document requests. During the Ben Holder Show at the recent city council meeting, Mike Barber addressed this subject with a recommendation that the city should be much more pro-active in responding to requests (see about the 8'30" mark in Ben's first video). Mike talked about the need to be more responsive to document requests and suggested the city take more risk in releasing documents.

On Wednesday the Blogfather referenced an article which lead to this where we learned that King County (Seattle) is facing perhaps nearly a million dollars in fines because it delayed in releasing public documents.
"The state Supreme Court has ruled that a $124,000 fine paid by King County for blatant violations of the state Public Records Act isn't nearly enough, and has sent the case back to Superior Court with a recommendation to increase the penalty."

"In 1997, Yousoufian asked the office of County Executive Ron Sims for copies of studies pertaining to the impact of the proposed $300 million Seahawks stadium. County residents were about to vote on a referendum to pay for Qwest Field."

"Yousoufian's attorney, Michael Brannan, said he'll ask the trial court to impose the maximum penalty: $825,200. That would equal $100 a day for each of the 8,252 days the trial court said the county violated the law."

If there is a risk in releasing documents too liberally, as Mike alleges, there is also a risk in the opposite action. Of course, we're a long way from the Seattle stage as of today, but we're getting closer every day the city behaves ostrich-like in reacting to these document requests.

I thought it was also interesting that during this discussion no one on City Council addressed any comment to the one person who could resolve this matter--the person charged with actually running the city: Mitch Johnson. Everyone on Council spoke in support of "getting the truth out", but no one addressed any comment to Mitch, who seemed to just sit there tar-baby-like.

There was considerable discussion about releasing the content of the tapes, but I believe Ben's primary concern was not the actual content of the tapes but the fact the city has continued to say the taping was part of an overt police investigation when subsequent facts have shown that isn't true, but the city won't admit it. Why not?

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