Public records abuse front and center during House Local Government Committee hearing
In June, the House Local Government Committee held a public hearing during the AWC Annual Conference to hear from local officials about issues facing their communities. Several speakers mentioned concerns with harassing, malicious, and abusive records requests. The mayor of Sultan reported that their neighbor, Gold Bar, is asking voters to either pass a levy to pay for the costs of records litigation, or to disincorporate because the town can no longer afford to fund general services and pay for the cost of records litigation driven by a few harassing requestors. The problem has been reported in several newspapers.
Rebecca Francik, Pasco councilmember, shared that her city has been the focus of a punitive records request from an individual unhappy about a land use decision. The requestor asked for 34 years of records that include the names of councilmembers or the city manager.
The Local Government Committee includes a number of legislators with former local government experience who can relate to cities’ struggles with these kinds of abusive requests, which do not further government transparency but instead drain already limited resources.