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Published on Friday, December 14, 2012

Protecting essential services from public records abuses

Addressing abuses of the Public Records Act is one of AWC’s major priorities for the upcoming legislative session. AWC is working with a coalition of local government organizations to pass legislation that would give us tools for addressing those requestors who are abusive and harassing. Cities are committed to transparency and providing access to public records. However, our ability to do so is hampered by those who abuse the law to harass local government or for monetary gain.

The coalition’s proposal is being sponsored by Rep. Dean Takko and has been signed by a bipartisan group of legislators. It includes two major provisions:

  • Authority to seek an injunction against abusive requestors with a relatively high bar for proving that someone is abusing the law. This is appropriate given the importance of transparency in government.
  • Authority for an agency to establish a threshold for the level of resources they have to dedicate to records requests, in order to protect local government ability to provide essential services.

These two tools are intended to help provide some balance to the situation now facing cities by allowing us to provide better access to records and preserve resources that are being drained by abusive requests.

It has proven very difficult to get the Legislature to pass changes to the Public Records Act, so we need everyone’s help. Please talk to your legislators about this issue – let them know what kinds of challenges cities are facing and ask them to support our proposed legislation. Shortly after the new year, the proposal will be pre-filed and assigned a bill number. When talking to your legislators, feel free to use this Fact Sheet that explains our challenges and approach.

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