The records of government must be available to the public. The law is clear, the exceptions few, open government strongly favored over secrecy. You can cite the preamble to the state Public Records Act a million times — “ … The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know … ” — and still there will be public officials who say it’s a bother.
The latest manifestation is Senate Bill 6351, passed out of committee Thursday. Public agencies who think a request for records is just too much trouble can go to court to seek an injunction to stop it. Agencies can adopt policies limiting the time they spend responding to public records requests to as little as five hours a month. A provision that an agency may escape a records request it considers a “significant burden” was removed by committee, but still, should this bill pass you may request a public record and find yourself in court explaining why you would like to view records supposedly open to the public, or revising your request to avoid a court date. Critics point out this turns the Public Records Act upside down. The burden of proof shifts to the citizen.
This bill is unnecessary and bad policy. In the name of open government, it should not pass.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.