Thursday, December 17, 2009

Morning News Tribune Gets It...Open Government Is Needed

As a member of the "Sunshine Committee" I have stressed the need, indeed, the mandate by the people to open the doors of government. There can be no accountability without it. Kim...point your efforts right at CPS.

Sunshine Committee still waiting to be heard
Posted By Kim Bradford
Tacoma News Tribune, December 17th

The Sunshine Committee could be on its way out. Perhaps lawmakers would consider a parting gift of finally heeding the committee’s advice?

The Sunshine Committee, aka the Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee, was among the 95 boards and commissions Gov. Chris Gregoire targeted for elimination earlier this month.

This isn’t the committee’s first death threat, nor would it be the last should the committee survive the legislative session. Some lawmakers complain that the committee hasn’t done enough to justify its existence.

But the Sunshine Committee is only as worthless as the Legislature makes it.

Some of the same legislators who would do away with the committee also refuse to sign onto bills that would see its recommendations given the force of law. {Right On Kim!)Worse yet is the lawmaker who sits on the committee yet in at least one instance worked to thwart its legislative agenda.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, sponsored a bill earlier this year that purported to implement the Sunshine Committee’s nonunanimous recommendations. Upon closer inspection, open government advocates found that what it actually proposed to do was take a bad court ruling and make it state law.

That ruling introduced an attorney-client privilege into the open records act, making a slew of records exempt from public disclosure even when there is no controversy. The Sunshine Committee voted 7-3 last year to ask the Legislature to clarify the law and preserve public disclosure; that recommendation still awaits the Legislature’s approval.

So does the committee’s more recent recommendation to get rid of the so-called “legislative privilege” that lawmakers use to get around open records requirements.

This privilege has been cobbled together from a sloppy definition of “legislative records” and an untested 2006 Snohomish County court case. Lawmakers, as well as the public agencies that communicate with them, use it to avoid disclosure of e-mails, letters and memos written on state equipment by state employees.

Earlier this year, the Department of Revenue balked at giving up records relating to tax proposals it had analyzed for lawmakers. The reason? Legislative privilege. Lawmakers eventually relented, but maintained that they did so only out of the goodness of their hearts.

The Sunshine Committee, which includes attorneys who advise local governments, takes a dim view of state lawmakers getting special treatment.

“Every other legislative body in the state of Washington is fully subject to the public records act,” the committee wrote in its recommendation. “There is no principled reason why the state Legislature should be exempt.”

That message remains true whether the messenger lives or dies.


Anonymous said...

So..I'm one of these people whom WA has a file on that I'm not allowed to see..well..I could see it if I was capable of paying $10000+ to lawyer to fight them in court about it..and thats the catch..if you care enough to spend that kind of money jsut to see what someone wrote then you must be a paranoid crazy right ? ?or looking to its in their best interests to keep it from your crazy suehappy possession.

Anonymous said...

This part of CPS struck me very odd. I asked for documentation regarding a decision made about relative placement with me to take to court. They refused to give it to me because it was in my daughter's file.
As I was having this discussion, two possible things became very clear to me. One, he didn't document at all or two, the department didn't want me to see what was written. He said I would have to get permission from my daughter to get written documentation about me. Does that seem odd to you? Now, I can get that permission and will, but people need to know that these things need to be in separate files OR that the department will pull those kinds of stunts to remain secretive.
I am not at all surprised that this would be on the chopping block. The priviledged class does not want to be looked at through the same type of glass that the general public gets looked at. Their flaws would show.

Anonymous said...

All Government records that do not risk national security should be open to the public.
"We Are The People"
In God We Trust in government we should be allowed to question if we think something is not right.
If anyone has a court issue with DSHS and they want their court record open to the public it should be allowed along with DSHS records that should back things up.
Allowing the public access by one check of a box could possibly save us billions of dollars and put a damper on corruptness. I would have checked that box in a heartbeat.
As it stands now, all people are not allowed access to their own court records that involve termination of parental rights. I only was allowed because my attorney was disbarred.
Sounded kind of fishy to me! Why would anyone be denied records that their attorney could get.
I doubt I could have ever been able to get what I needed had I not had an inside connection in the Kitsap County Superior Courts Clerks office. It is wrong!
It should be by personal choice to allow public access to goverment agency and termination of parental rights court records to be open to the public if any party to the case so chooses.

Elaine Wolcott-Ehrhardt
Washington Families United/President

Anonymous said...

I would love to see what lies CPS has written about me. I would love for people who know me well to see it as well so CPS can be called on it. My mother worked for the Welfare Department (retired now) and the welfare caseworkers could not get the phone numbers of CPS caseworkes! That was many years ago so I don't know if that has changed. CPS think they are God and this State has let them be as well as the courts. No wonder we are a laughing stalk on the world scene.

CC Tillett said...

For all of you that want to see your records, please file a FOIA request. The form is self explanitory. If the information is in a family members file, get them to file the form.

1.) Get the form to the DSHS office with ID in hand.
2.) Make sure that this document is time stamped, and that you get a copy of that.
3.) By law DSHS must inform you of when you may expect the arrival of these documents. Usually within 2 weeks you will get this letter.
4.) It will take at least 90 days to get records. They will come to you redacted. The blanks are easily filled in.
5.) The record often times isn't complete. And asks more questions than they answer. Just keep at them with more records requests.
6.)" REQUEST FOR RECORDS" available on their web site.(DSHS)

You can even request the foster parents information..if you know their names, through the department of Licensing.

CC Tillett
Washington Families United
Child and Family Advocate

Now all of you please get busy with your requests. But it must be on their required form, verbally asking for it means nothing.

Anonymous said...

Believe me if CPS hasn't written any lies about someone they would come up with many if, it is in their Best Interest.