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Category: Open Government

May
24th

UPDATED: Assistant AG thinks meeting should have been open: Landmarks Commission skates on edge of state Open Public Meetings Act with totem pole task force

An ad hoc committee created to research options for Tacoma’s 110-year-old totem pole should have been treated as an open meeting – including advance public notice – based on a pair of state court decisions.

The committee, formed by Tacoma historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight and arts administrator Amy McBride, included two of the 11 members of the city Landmarks Commission. It also included city staffers from public works and planning as well as a consultant, Native American carver Sean Peterson.

The group recommended that the historic pole be taken down rather than restored and laid to decompose in a

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April
25th

Former state auditor Brian Sonntag to be inducted into hall of fame for open government work

Former state auditor Brian Sonntag will be recognized next month for his contributions to state open government.

He’ll be formally inducted into the Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame May 18.

The honor was created by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition in 2003.

Sonntag, who retired this year after serving five terms as state auditor, is the 13th person selected for the award. He is the second consecutive inductee from Washington, and the third elected official chosen.

Washington Coalition for Open Government president Toby

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March
12th

Report: Washington’s legislature gets top grade for online transparency

Open government advocates take heart:  The Washington State Legislature gets an `A’  for online transparency, according to a national study released this week.

The Sunlight Foundation delivered its “Transparency Report Card” this week to gauge how well state legislative information is made available to the public on the internet.  The Washington D.C.-based open government advocacy nonprofit collected data for six different criteria to develop the scorecard for all 50 states.

“The Transparency Report Card judges legislative websites in relation to how government information is publicly available,” the foundation  said in a press release. “Factors include: completeness, timeliness, ease of

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Feb.
2nd

‘Sunshine’ recommendations for public disclosure pass committee

Recommendations of the “sunshine” panel, which reviews the state’s public disclosure exemptions, are one step closer to becoming law.

Lawmakers passed a proposal that would implement nine recommendations of the panel out of the Senate government operations committee this morning.

Finalists’ job applications for top public positions, such as that of university presidents, would be public with the measure. It would also exempt local gang databases – compiled by law enforcement — from public disclosure, as well as certain personal financial information.

The measure met an important deadline by getting passed out of committee today; Friday is the cutoff date

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Dec.
5th

Agency that advises Washington cities on law and best practices said using code letters to avoid ID’ing job candidates not proper under open meetings law

It was a coincidence that the monthly newsletter of the Municipal Research Services Center had a question and answer about open meetings law that was exactly on point to an issue facing the Tacoma City Council.

Had it come out a little earlier, though, it might have headed off an issue about the conflict between open government and promises of confidentiality to applicants for prominent government offices.

The newsletter’s feature “Ask MRSC” has a question about whether state open meetings law allows a council to assign letters to job finalists to avoid revealing the names of applicants in public That’s

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May
27th

Pierce County courthouse rumor about political interference with districting committee was a good one (except that it wasn’t true)

Had I heard what Pierce County Council Chairman Roger Bush had done? Had I heard the chairman was concerned that Republican incumbents were being drawn out of their districts and wanted changes made? Had I heard that he summoned the appointed Districting Committee master to go over the proposed districts?

No, I hadn’t heard about that. If true, it would be a problem because while the Pierce County Charter doesn’t use the word “Independent,” it is sort of assumed that the committee that redraws county council districts should be insulated from the politicians.

The committee isn’t non-partisan so much as it is bipartisan. There are two Republicans and two Democrats who then appoint a chair. And since it takes three votes to approve a plan (and four votes to amend maps presented by the appointed master) cooperation is required.

I left a message for Bush and called committee Chairwoman Karen Seinfeld. She wasn’t aware of any meetings between master Steven Garrett and Bush. The committee has had three public hearings and has heard about some concerns with early maps. In each case the committee asked Garrett to find solutions, which he has.

For example, an early draft split Summit and Waller. It also placed Steilacoom, Ketron Island and Anderson Island in a district with Gig Harbor when local leaders thought it fit better with Lakewood and University Place.

While Seinfeld said she isn’t focused on “incumbent protection,” the committee would entertain concerns by elected council members about how new districts effect them. But the proper setting is a public hearing. That’s where Councilmember Dick Muri appeared to talk about the Steilacoom issue.

I reached Garrett Friday afternoon to ask him about the rumored meeting with Bush. He said he wondered why it had taken me so long to call since he too had heard the rumors.

Only one thing. They aren’t true. Garrett said he doesn’t think he has ever met Roger Bush and certainly didn’t spend hours meeting with him about districting plans.

“If such a request came my way, I would decline,” Garrett said. “I’d be uncomfortable with it.” Council members “have a stake in the result, as does the public. They’re welcome to come to the hearings.” Read more »

May
3rd

How much do Port of Seattle/Port of Tacoma employees make?

Continuing our annual updates of our SoundInfo public employee pay databases, I’ve now posted 2010 numbers for the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Below are some interesting facts from the respective agencies.

Port of Seattle:

• The top paid employee was port CEO Tay Yoshitani, who earned $319,300, followed by Oshu Go, senior manager of Asian business development, at $249,949 and Mark Reis, Sea-Tac airport director, at $223,551.

• The top paid employees were mostly high-salaried managers, but several Port police officers and sergeants took in over $150,000, apparently from overtime. Of the 1,600 some employees listed, 402 had six figure gross pay.

• Average pay for common positions: Police officer ($111,469), wireman ($111,469), firefighter A ($105,896) and senior access controller ($51,878).

Port of Tacoma:

• The top paid employee at the port last year didn’t work there: Tim Farrell, who left the port at the end of 2009, but received a hefty buyout package. John Wolfe, who succeeded Farrell mid-year after serving as interim, earned about the same – $218,770.

• Elected port commissioners each made $6,000 in base pay, but were paid around three times that amount (from $16,046 to $20,407), thanks to a per-diem allowed under state law.

• Pay for some of the more common job titles included journey level maintenance workers ($86,762), regular security workers ($95,645) and technician I ($55,508).

The port is in the process of a compensation overhaul as the TNT’s John Gillie reported earlier this year.

Below are tables showing the highest paid employees in either organization:

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April
4th

Freedom Foundation files access suit against Gov. Gregoire

The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based think tank with a right-of-center agenda, filed suit today against Gov. Chris Gregoire over her office’s use of executive privilege to shield public records from disclosure.

Foundation general counsel Michael Retiz said Gregoire’s office used the privilege to deny release of some 500 documents sought in 46 different records requests since 2007. The suit targets half a dozen instances where Freedom Foundation requests were rejected.

Gregoire’s spokeswoman Karina Shagren said they had not seen the suit.

The cases deal with Gregoire’s decision on a medical-marijuana policy,

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