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State’s Sunshine Committee needs governor’s attention

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm with No Comments »
August 19, 2010 5:17 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has a lot on her plate. There’s the looming budget hole to be addressed, and a Legislature shamefully inclined to let her deal with it by herself. Then there’s that possible Obama administration nomination for solicitor general that she’s apparently intent on fending off.

Still, she should take some time out of that busy schedule and make four appointments that are her responsibility: to the state’s Public Records Exemption Accountability Committee, better known as the Sunshine Committee.

That committee was created in 2007 to annually review exemptions to the Public Disclosure Act, which requires that records be made available to the public and media. When voters approved the act in 1972, there were only 10 exemptions.

That list has exploded to more than 350, and it’s the Sunshine Committee’s duty to study them and recommend whether to repeal, amend or retain them.

The governor appoints six of the committee’s 13 members, including its chairman. Two of her appointments have expired and another two are vacant, including the chairmanship. That makes it hard for the committee to reach a quorum, given the busy schedules of its membership (which includes News Tribune president and publisher David Zeeck).

To address the lack of a chairman, committee members have resorted to naming two vice chairs, retiring state Rep. Lynn Kessler and Tim Ford of the state attorney general’s office.

That’s a good temporary fix, but the committee would be better served with a single leader – and preferably one with a stronger commitment to public access than former chairman Tom Carr. He was the Seattle city attorney who had an anti-disclosure record.

The Sunshine Committee has a lot of work to do, plowing through scores of exemptions. The governor does the public a disservice by failing to make four of the six appointments she’s allowed.

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