Going Public

public records

Yesterday felt like Friday. But it wasn’t. I hate fake Fridays.

I went to the WAPRO conference yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, it’s all about records management if you’re a government entity. Hillary Clinton and the deleted emails? That was a Class C felony in the state of Washington. But I don’t know anything about that.

Anyway, the conference was in Lynnwood, which is north of Seattle. About 400 of us listened to librarians talk about fulfilling disclosure requests. They gave us solutions about retaining texts. The lawyers took over and discussed case  law with a special session on what to do if your agency gets sued. They had a 3-page section on what to do and what not to do if you get deposed.

Good times, my friend. And you missed it.

Every time I attend one of these, I’m struck by two things. First, the people in the room, on the podium as well as the strangers around the table, are way smarter than me. I mean, like Mensa champs. I would totally lose to them at Jeopardy! Most heinously.¬† As for Scrabble…fuggedaboutit.

The second thing I’m reminded of the fact that we’re public servants. Our rule within our agencies is to provide requestors what they seek, to the best of our abilities. True, records are only a side gig for me. I don’t do many public records requests in a year (knock on wood). Yet the 1972 law is clear – transparency rules:

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. The public records subdivision of this chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy.

As much as this can be an onerous task, searching for records and maintaining what we do have, the need for transparency and truth is inspiring. I’m proud of Washington for enacting this law. They keep the exemptions in check with The Sunshine Committee. I remember we’re governed by “we the people” not any one person or group. It’s a beautiful thing.