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An ‘excessive’ use of public disclosure laws?

Post by Kim Bradford on Feb. 3, 2010 at 6:06 am with No Comments »
February 3, 2010 2:21 pm

The “Seniors for Sale” investigation by the Seattle Times this week helps explain why open government advocates get nervous when public agencies start agitating for the ability to crack down on “habitual” requesters.

Seattle Times reporter Michael Berens used thousands of public records to document how the state’s adult family homes leave many seniors vulnerable to abuse and neglect. It’s an important story, one that could have never been told without Berens filing lots and lots of public records requests. From the Times:

(Seattle Times reporter Michael J.) Berens also filed nearly 50 state public-records requests to obtain more than 15,000 pages of documents, including internal e-mails from the Department of Social and Health Services and the state Department of Health.

He also obtained and analyzed computer databases and thousands of pages of disciplinary actions from the state DSHS.

He drew from all this information to create a custom database of adult-family-home enforcement actions from 1995 through 2009. He analyzed this data for some of his findings.

Additional resources include a state database of death certificates, which comprised hundreds of thousands of records, and a state database of hospital admissions, the Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System.

Sounds like Berens sucked up quite a bit of state agency time and resources. I imagine he was a pest at times. But who can argue that the result didn’t justify the state’s trouble and expense?

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