OLYMPIA: Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-North Seattle) has introduced legislation to provide open-government training for elected and appointed officials, as well as public records officers.
House Bill 2572 would ensure that those at the top of state, county and city governments attend a short web based class on basic open-government principles. It also requires training for members of councils, boards, ports and commissions subject to the Open Public Meetings Act.
Public records requests are frequently compromised because officials do not know that their e-mails are subject to requests, exemptions are misapplied, and/or agencies do not understand their obligations to provide records. Recent Washington Supreme Court opinions suggest that training courses could have reduced penalties paid by local governments and state agencies for violations.
“Public record and open meeting laws are the cornerstone for public trust and participation in government. However, mistakes by officials often compromise the public’s right to know,” said Rep. Pollet. “Training is a crucial step towards transparency at all levels of government.”
The Attorney General would be tasked with developing concise, web-based, free trainings for elected and appointed officials and agency public records staff. City or county council members, school board members, and appointed boards would receive a two-hour training within ninety days of taking office. Agency public record officers would receive a more intensive training, either online or in-person.
The legislation came to Rep. Pollet via the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG), an organization dedicated to promoting and defending open government.
“If public employees and elected and appointed officials receive training in the requirements of Washington’s open government laws, we could avoid mistakes, and thereby reduce costly penalties, attorney fees and court costs while improving public trust. That’s why this bill is our top legislative priority for 2012” said WCOG President Toby Nixon.
Rep. Pollet will be filing a separate bill barring destruction of records which have been requested by the public or media before the record is scheduled to be archived or deleted under record retention schedules.
Rep. Pollet represents the 46th District encompassing much of North Seattle.