Our Views: Public Records Act Under Assault

The Olympian Online


Olympia, WA - In 1972, the voters of this state passed the Open Public Records Act, stating the fundamental principle that government records must be open to public scrutiny.

The law is eloquent: "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. ..."

Regretfully, in the intervening 30 years, the state Legislature has whittled away at the people's right to public records. One by one, exemptions to the Open Public Records Act have been added to the law.

There are exemptions for student records, for public employees' personnel records, tax records, real estate appraisals. The list goes on and on.

Yet another bill has been introduced in the state House of Representatives to add to the list of exemptions.

House Bill 1569 would put financial and commercial information supplied by bidders on public projects beyond the reach of the public-records law.

An amended version says bidder's self-proclaimed "trade secrets" can be withheld from the public as part of the bidding process.

That's wrong. Firms bidding on taxpayer financed projects need to understand that their bids -- all components of their bids -- should be available to public inspection. It's part of the open government process.

Call Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, at 786-7966 to register an objection.


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