Saturday, February 20, 2016

Concerning public records requests in Washington state (or how to screw the public)

House Bill 2576.  Concerning public records act requests to local agencies.

Basic concept, agencies only have to spend a certain amount of time and effort filling public records requests.  Seems reasonable, after all, they also have to do their actual jobs.

Here's the tiny little problem.  Any thoughts on how you could use this to screw the public or the opposition?

Anyone?  Thoughts?

You guessed it.  If I didn't want anyone to be able to dig the dirt out of my favorite mismanaged or corrupt government office I'd invest a few bucks, file so many records requests that it would take them ten years to work through the backlog in the time allotted by House Bill 2576, and then go on about my dirty business.  They can have their public records once they've finished with mine, by which time it won't matter.

I've got a better idea.  If public records requests are taking so damn long to process that they are keeping the government from doing the government's job, why not just post everything on the internet?  Let people search to their heart's content.  Contracts, bidding, regulations, audits, post 'em all.  They are paid for with our money, after all.  If something is too sensitive for us to see, make that justification and don't post it.  Otherwise, well, why not?


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